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ARP investments in comprehensive afterschool: Connecticut case-study

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ARP investments in comprehensive afterschool: Connecticut case-study

By Mahika Gupta and Alexa Kamen, the Afterschool Alliance’s inaugural Summer Policy Interns. Mahika is entering her Senior year at Colby College in Maine, working on degrees in English Creative Writing and Astrophysics and participating as a staff writer for her college paper. Alexa currently teaches elementary school in Baltimore through Teach for America. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary. This blog is designed to be the first in a series deeply exploring the impacts of ARP funds on districts ability to support students with comprehensive afterschool programs.

The American Rescue Plan (ARP) provides $122 billion dollars total for states and districts to support students with a portion of those funds targeted towards student support outside the hours of traditional school through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER III).  The United States Department of Education (USED) required all state education agencies (SEA) to submit detailed plans that laid out how they would effectively use ARP ESSER funds to address the impact of COVID-19 on American students. Of the total investment, 10 percent of the money allocated to each state by the ARP remains managed at the state level while 90 percent is given to the districts. We are working with the Afterschool Alliance to determine how much funding each district allocated towards comprehensive afterschool and summer programs in their plans.

To receive local education agency funds, districts had to submit their own plans to their state. District plans are public information and can therefore be evaluated to see where investments in COVID recovery are being made at the local level, including if any contribute to the creation of comprehensive afterschool and summer programs. Funding from the ARP bill can be obligated through September 2023 (can be extended to 2024); readers can learn more on our blog on the funding timeline. There are opportunities for both summer and afterschool programs providers, such as those from community-based partner organizations, to access the funding.

In the American Rescue Plan, of the 90 percent of funds designated for local districts, a 20 percent set aside is to be used for learning loss recovery which includes “the implementation of evidence-based interventions aimed specifically at addressing learning loss, such as summer learning or summer enrichment, extended day, comprehensive afterschool programs, or extended school year programs.”

A comprehensive program is not solely focused on academics but provides students with various opportunities different from in the classroom to expand their minds and capacity for social & emotional learning, as well as creativity. These programs apply evidence-based practices to support the needs of students, families, and communities, with an emphasis on service in historically underserved neighborhoods. Comprehensive programs have an evidence base showing impacts on important areas of student recovery from engagement, social and emotional well-being, and attendance, to grades, academics and graduation rates.

We decided to start by looking at district plans within Connecticut because it has a more manageable number of districts and is Education Secretary Cardona’s home state. In addition, Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy and Chair of the House Appropriations Committee Rosa DeLauro have publicly voiced their support for afterschool and summer programs. 

The Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) submitted its plan to use $100 million of state set-aside of the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER III) funds in the summer of 2021. CSDE’s press release on June 9, 2021 states that Connecticut “made it a priority to engage in meaningful consultation with diverse stakeholder groups to inform the development of a state plan that best supports students’ academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs, as well as the needs of educators and school communities.” Connecticut’s plan created a narrative to describe their vision for investments that touch on both the short-term and lasting impacts of federal funding. 

According to the 2020 U.S. census, Connecticut has 170 school districts and 1,148 schools. We used the full suite of 48 district plans identified by our contract with Burbio Inc. in March 2022 to look at the amount of money each district allocated to comprehensive afterschool and summer programming. Most states do not list all their district plans in one place and Burbio staff aim to identify as many as possible.

According to Burbio’s data, the 48 district plans identified in Connecticut were to receive a total of $783,465,340 in ESSER III funds. Burbio additionally found that 21 district plans mentioned investments in afterschool for a reported total of $12,358,245.

The Burbio team initially had identified expenditures mainly using the keyword “afterschool”. We dug a little deeper to understand if the afterschool mentions found by Burbio met the definition of comprehensive afterschool programs (beyond extended afterschool time for solely academic tutoring). We categorized “afterschool” into four sections:

  • Extended school day
  • Solely academic afterschool (extra hours with teachers for math and English tutoring)
  • Primarily academic programming with minimal external opportunities
  • Comprehensive (looking at the research-based elements of evidence-based programs as a guide)

We also looked to see if partners were included and funded that may not have met the keyword definition, for example, “Boys and Girls Clubs,” “YMCAs,” museums, libraries and other community partnerships.

When we scanned the district plans using our refined definitions of afterschool, we found even more districts that met our specifications. Twenty-eight of them overall allocated money towards some type of afterschool/extended day programming (68 percent of districts with submitted plans). While about half of the districts that submitted plans did not provide enough information in their plans to define the type of afterschool program they would be undertaking, of those that did, a majority invested primarily in academic tutoring. Only a small number of districts invested in comprehensive afterschool programming, with the rest falling somewhere in between (i.e., mostly academic with an additional element of student support). Specifically, we found:

  • Extended School Day: Seven districts invested a total of $2,234,861 (16.66 percent of total funds allocated towards afterschool) in extended school days
  • Solely Academic: Fourteen districts invested a total of $2,074,836(15.46 percent of total funds allocated towards afterschool) in a singularly focused academic afterschool program
  • Primarily Academic with Elements of Student Support: Six districts invested a total of $1,474,601 (10.99 percent of total funds allocated towards afterschool) in primarily academic programs with elements of student support
  • Comprehensive Afterschool: Three districts invested a total of $2,078,917 (15.49 percent of total funds allocated towards afterschool) in comprehensive afterschool programs

Of the afterschool funds, 48.43 percent ($6,498,106) went towards programs that we were not able to classify due to a lack of information as well as transportation costs to and from the afterschool programs. We calculated these percentages by totaling the amount of money all the districts spent in each category and divided that by the total amount all the districts spent towards afterschool in general. 

The following districts provide some examples of proposed comprehensive and academic programs. The Norwich district allocated a total of $553,483 towards afterschool, all of which went towards hiring teachers and ordering supplies for academic tutoring. On the other hand, the Middletown district put $117,500 towards an afterschool program focusing on aerospace, robotics, and engineering. While this is still academically structured, Middletown’s afterschool program is closer to what we are looking for out of a comprehensive program, as it introduces students to skills and activities that they would not normally be introduced to during school hours. The New Britain district, according to the way they allocated funds in their plan, provides a great example of an afterschool program. They offer tutors and an extended day academic program in addition to partnering with community partners such as the New Britain Youth Theatre to provide students with a variety of different activities to boost creativity and social & emotional learning.

Due to our methods of analysis, some of our final calculations of the amount of money allocated to afterschool programs differed from Burbio’s calculations. According to Burbio, the total amount of money allocated towards afterschool programming by the 48 districts that submitted plans was $12,358,245 (excluding one district that mentioned the implementation of afterschool programs but didn’t provide a budget). We originally calculated the amount of money spent by the 28 districts to be $14,628,470 when considering money allocated solely for one fiscal year. However, when adjusting for the total amount of money allocated in district plans spanning multiple years, which is the metric used by Burbio, the total amount we calculated towards general afterschool programming was $16,562,813, which is over $4 million more than Burbio’s calculations. As we mentioned previously, some of these discrepancies are because we looked at different key words than Burbio did, including but not limited to before school programs, community engagement, and Saturday school.

It’s exciting to see the amount of money being allocated towards afterschool programs. We found that out of the $16,562,813 these 28 districts allocated towards the broader category of “afterschool,” only $2,078,917 (15.49 percent) is going to programs we at the Afterschool Alliance consider to be comprehensive afterschool. While this is more money than is going to extended day or tutoring with a comprehensive component, these funds only came from three out of the 28 districts that allocated money towards afterschool.

The simplicity of Connecticut’s plans provided us with a good starting point in analyzing the distribution of funds at the district level. Over the next few weeks, we will begin to look closely at the few districts that allocated money towards comprehensive afterschool to see how the money in their budget was spent.

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Senate Afterschool Caucus briefing highlights the impact of afterschool and summer programs

On Wednesday, July 12, the Senate Afterschool Caucus, in partnership with the Afterschool Alliance and the National Summer Learning Association, held a briefing on how the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program is making a positive difference for youth, families, and...

BY: Erik Peterson      07/18/23

$50M in 21st CCLC funds from Bipartisan Safer Communities Act sent to states

This summer, a group of 20 Democratic and Republican Senators, led by Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), worked to pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which included gun safety measures, mental health support investments, and school safety provisions that aim to...

BY: Erik Peterson      11/03/22

Learning about summer learning

Summer enrichment funding for every state was required in the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER). The State of Summer Learning Grants: An Analysis of States’ Use of ARP Summer Enrichment published in July by the organization Education...

BY: Jillian Luchner      09/19/22

ARP investments in comprehensive afterschool: Kentucky case-study

By Mahika Gupta and Alexa Kamen, the Afterschool Alliance’s inaugural Summer Policy Interns. Mahika is entering her Senior year at Colby College in Maine, working on degrees in English Creative Writing and Astrophysics and participating as a staff writer for her college paper. Alexa...

BY: Guest Blogger      08/18/22

ARP investments in comprehensive afterschool: Connecticut case-study

By Mahika Gupta and Alexa Kamen, the Afterschool Alliance’s inaugural Summer Policy Interns. Mahika is entering her Senior year at Colby College in Maine, working on degrees in English Creative Writing and Astrophysics and participating as a staff writer for her college paper. Alexa...

BY: Guest Blogger      08/05/22

Roundup of afterschool in State Budgets Part 2

With state legislative sessions wrapping up and state budgets now finalized, we bring you our second installment of the roundup of afterschool funding in state budgets. As highlighted in the previous post from June, this year brought a number of new investments in afterschool at the state level....

BY: Chris Neitzey      07/21/22

For some, a summer of enrichment thanks to ARP dollars

This summer, thanks to pandemic relief funding, some students are experiencing a summer full of exploration, connections with friends and mentors, and learning that is engaging and exciting. After the last couple years, it can be a game changer for youth who have faced isolation, loss, and...

BY: Erik Peterson      06/27/22

Jodi Grant testifies at House hearing in support of afterschool programs

This morning, Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant testified at a hearing of the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS-E) Appropriations Subcommittee in favor of increased funding for Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st...

BY: Erik Peterson      05/26/22