- Dr. Andre Perry, a well-known spokesman on education policy, writes tor The Hechinger Report on the need for free, quality after-school care, recommending that U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos support a voucher program for after-school care rather than for school choice options.
- While most parents work, programs supporting students before and after school serve only about 18% of children in the United States, often because parents cannot afford the rising cost of childcare or because they live in childcare deserts where not enough options are available.
- Meanwhile, there are still 11.3 million children who are unsupervised after school and who don't get to benefit from the safety and academic enrichment opportunities after-school care can offer.
Though the federal 21st Century Community Learning Center grant came through unscathed in the last federal budget, it is set to expire in 2019, and the Trump administration has indicated that it isn't supportive of the program. The reasoning is based on evidence that the program did not improve academic outcomes and had a tendency to worsen student behavior. However, other advocates point out that this evidence is based on older studies that may not accurately reflect new approaches.
For many families, the need for safe, affordable and high-quality after-school care is clear. School days do not usually correspond with work days, and the high cost of after school care means millions of children are left unsupervised after school. According to a 2014 report by the Afterschool Alliance, in 2004, the parents of 15.3 million children said they would enroll their child in an after-school program if one were available. By 2014, that number rose to 19.4 million children.
When properly operated, after-school care programs offer benefits and make a difference in students' lives. They can keep students safe and support them academically while allowing parents to work without worrying about their kids being on their own. They can also keep teens from dropping out of school and be used to help better prepare students for the workforce instead. While long-term solutions are elusive, community organizations like the Boys & Girls Clubs of America are helping to fill the gap in many areas of the country.