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, build healthy relationships with adults and peers, and avoid risky behaviors after the school day ends. Council for a Strong America—a national, bipartisan nonprofit that includes law enforcement leaders, retired admirals and generals, and business executives—identifies afterschool programs as a key policy approach to set the stage for strengthening the nation in their 2022 Blueprint for a Stronger America.

Also, afterschool programs save at least three tax dollars for every one spent by reducing crime costs, improving student’s performance in school, and increasing young people’s earning potential.

  • Parents of 24.6 million children not currently participating in afterschool programs say they would enroll their children if a program were available to them. Unmet demand for programs has increase 60 percent since 2004.
  • Among parents with a child in an afterschool program:
    • 93 percent agree the programs keep young people safe and out of trouble.
    • 84 percent agreed afterschool programs reduced the likelihood that youth will use drugs or engage in other 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 January 2023 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 conducted by Lake Research Partners for the Afterschool Alliance in November of 2022.

  • An overwhelming majority of voters (81 percent) agree that afterschool programs are an absolute necessity for their community. Additionally, 82 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of afterschool programs, including 86 percent of suburban women, 88 percent of working parents, and 81 percent of voters 50 and over.
  • Support for funding for afterschool programs is at an all-time high. In addition to 81 percent of voters in agreement that newly elected federal, state, and local officials should provide more funding to afterschool programs, majorities of Democrats (90 percent), Republicans (74 percent), and Independents (66 percent), as well as voters in urban (85 percent), suburban (82 percent), and rural communities (70 percent) support increased funding.
  • More than 3 in 4 voters agree that local governments and schools should invest some of their COVID-relief funds into afterschool and summer programs. Seventy-eight percent of voters agree that local governments should invest some of their COVID-relief funds into afterschool and summer programs, while 76 percent of voters agree that schools should do the same. Strong majorities agree across regions, community types, and political affiliations.

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 in afterschool 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-of-school 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] Students who participated in the Higher Achievement afterschool and summer program had statistically significantly higher report card grades in math, English, and science, as well as higher overall GPAs, compared to an equally motivated matched control group after two years in the program.[3]
  • Increases school-day attendance among regularly attending students: Statewide evaluations of 21st Century Community Learning Centers afterschool programs found positive impacts of regular program participation on school day attendance. In New Jersey, 21st CCLC participants had lower unexcused school-day absences than non-attending peers.6 Evaluations of the Texas’ Afterschool Centers on Education (ACE) consistently found that students with high levels of attendance in the program saw particularly strong results, where students participating for 60 days or more had a lower school-day absence rate than students who did not participate in the program.[4]

[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] Garcia, I., Grossman, J.B., Herrera, C., Strassberger, M., Dixon, M., & Linden, L. (2020).Aiming Higher: Assessing Higher Achievement’s Out-of-School Expansion Efforts. Retrieved from

[4] Naftzger, N., Shields, J., & Diehl, D. (2020). 21st Century Community Learning Centers: Texas Afterschool Centers on Education 2017-18 Evaluation Report. American Institutes for Research.

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 Demanding Change: Repairing Our Childcare System, center-based child care for a single child can cost 10 percent of a married couples' total income—or a shocking 35 percent of total household income for single-parent families. The average annual cost of care for school-aged children can total more than $10,000.

The realities of today’s working world make afterschool programs an absolute necessity. Ninety-one percent of 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 and that afterschool programs help working parents keep their jobs (86 percent). Additionally, 89 percent of working parents agree that the experience of the coronavirus pandemic made them appreciate school teachers and afterschool providers more than ever before.