Addressing common misconceptions

During your campaign, you will not only be tasked with educating and prompting your community, but also with defending afterschool against criticism, excuses, or apathy. These talking points provide responses to commonly held misconceptions about afterschool programs.

Misconception #1: “We can’t afford to pay for afterschool programs.”

We can’t afford not to support afterschool.

Quality afterschool programs help young people make smart decisions and avoid risky behaviors after the school day ends. Police chiefs from across the country have spoken out about the positive influence they have seen programs have in their community.

Also, afterschool programs save at least three tax dollars for every one spent by reducing the need for remedial education and grade repetition, as well as keeping kids safe and out of trouble.

  • Parents of 19.4 million children (41 percent) not currently participating in afterschool programs say they would enroll their children if a program were available to them. That is a significant increase from 15.3 million (30 percent) in 2004.
  • Among parents with a child in an afterschool program, more than 8 in 10 agree that afterschool programs excite children about learning, keep kids active, develop social skills and reduce the likelihood that youth will engage in risky behaviors.

Misconception #2: “People aren’t willing to spend public funds on afterschool programs.”

There is strong public support for afterschool programs

A national poll released in October 2018 finds that vast majorities of the public – across gender, race, age, regional and party lines – consider afterschool programs to be important to their communities. There is also strong support for public funding of afterschool and summer learning programs, with two in three adults saying they want their federal, state and local leaders to provide funding for afterschool and summer programs.

The poll was designed by the bipartisan team of Lake Research Partners and the Tarrance Group and administered by Ipsos through an online omnibus survey from September 7 – 9 , 2018. It reached 1 ,001 adults nationwide.

  • Nearly 9 in 10 adults (89 percent) agree that afterschool programs are important to their community, with bipartisan and nationwide support for afterschool programs cutting across party lines as well as geographic regions.
  • Seven in ten adults oppose eliminating federal funds for afterschool programs, and 52 percent are strongly opposed.
  • Two-thirds of adults want federal, state, and local leaders to provide funding for afterschool and summer learning programs.

Misconception #3: “Afterschool programs don’t work.”

Afterschool works!

Afterschool programs help children learn, grow, and realize their full potential. In addition to many compelling personal stories about the benefits of afterschool, dozens of formal studies clearly demonstrate the value of afterschool initiatives. These studies prove that afterschool programs keep kids safe, help working families and improve academic achievement. Some examples:

  • Closing the achievement gap: Research examining the effect of participation inafterschool programs found that the more consistent students’ participation in afterschool is, the greater the gains in their math achievement. Among low-income students, the higher the levels of participation in afterschool, the smaller the math achievement gap is between them and their high-income peers.1
  • Improved academic performance: A 2006 meta-analysis synthesizing 35 out-ofschool time (OST) afterschool program studies, conducted by Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) with funding from the Department of Education, found that afterschool programs had positive and significant effects among students at risk of failure in reading or math. Researchers found positive results on reading achievement, particularly in lower elementary grade levels and in high school and positive and significant effects on math achievement, particularly for middle and high school students.2
  • Making gains in math: An evaluation of high-quality afterschool programs serving 3,000 low-income elementary and middle school students found that regular participation in high-quality afterschool programs by low-income youth resulted in significant gains in math test scores and work habits and reductions in behavioral problems. The Promising Afterschool Programs Study, a study of about 3,000 low-income, ethnically-diverse elementary and middle school students, found that those who regularly attended highquality programs over two years demonstrated gains of up to 20 percentiles and 12 percentiles in standardized math test scores respectively, compared to their peers who were routinely unsupervised during the afterschool hours.3
  1. Pierce, K. M., Auger, A., & Vandell, D. L. (2013). Associations between Structured Activity Participation and Academic Outcomes in Middle Childhood: Narrowing the Achievement Gap? Paper presented at the 2013 Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development held in Seattle, WA.
  2. Lauer, P. A., Akiba, M., Wilkerson, S. B., Apthorp, H. S., Snow, D., & Martin-Glenn, M. L. (2006). Out-of-School-Time Programs: A Meta-Analysis of Effects for At-Risk Students. Review of Educational Research, Vol. 76, No. 2 (Summer, 2006), pp. 275-313. American Educational Research Association.
  3. Vandell, D. L., Reisner, E. R., & Pierce, K. M. (2007). Outcomes Linked to High-Quality Afterschool Programs: Longitudinal Findings from the Study of Promising Afterschool Programs. Report to the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

Misconception #4: “It’s parents’ responsibility to see that their kids have adequate care.”

The need of afterschool programs far outweighs the supply, for every community in America.

Unfortunately, adequate care is something not always available in every community. Today, only one-fourth of American families fit the “traditional” image of one parent at home caring for children full time, while the other parent provides financial support. In fact, 75 percent of mothers with school-age children are employed. In all, there are more than 30 million children in a household where both parents are in the workforce.

Additionally, the impact of a lack of adequate care is much broader in scope, not only affecting the children and parents who are in need of afterschool resources. Research has found that parents miss an average of five days of work per year due to a lack of afterschool care, and that decreased worker productivity related to parent’s concerns about their child’s afterschool care costs businesses up to $300 billion per year.

With parents reporting spending close to an average of 9 hours during the weekdays working, the gap between work and school schedules amounts to as much as 25 hours per week. This presents working parents with the challenge of finding someone to care for their children while they are at work. Nationwide, more than 3 million children in grades K-8 regularly care for themselves, and 20 percent of all children go home alone after school each day.

Further, child care can be prohibitively expensive for many working families. According to ChildCare Aware of America's The U.S. and the High Price of Child Care report, center-based child care for a single child can cost 11 percent of a married couples' total income—or a shocking 36 percent of total household income for single-parent families. The average annual cost of care for school-aged children can total more than $11,000.

The realities of today’s working world make afterschool programs an absolute necessity. More than 8 in 10 parents with a child in an afterschool program agree that afterschool programs help give working parents peace of mind about their children when they are at work (85 percent) and that afterschool programs help working parents keep their jobs (84 percent).