Local Funding for Out-of-School Time Puts DC on the Path to OST for All
Today’s budget vote is a step forward for OST funding, with an extension of the $5 million enhancement to the OST Office for another fiscal year with local dollars (bringing the total budget to $18.6 million), and $3.9 million in local funds for OST programming through the Department of Parks and Recreation. These combined investments of $22.4 million move us closer to fully funding affordable, high-quality OST opportunities for all DC youth.
This year, DC Action and the DC OST Coalition asked the Mayor and Council to begin replacing last year’s significant investments in OST from federal relief funds with local dollars, by allocating at least an additional $2 million in local, recurring funds to the OST Office to ensure sustainability of programming. We also asked the Council to leverage its oversight of the OST Office to ensure that organizations who are awarded Learn24 grants receive payments in a timely manner, an issue that has impacted many coalition member organizations in the current fiscal year. Chairman Phil Mendelson and his team followed up with DC Action and the OST coalition to learn more about these challenges, and included in the COW budget report a call for the Deputy Mayor for Education to ensure a new OST Office executive director is onboarded before the start of summer, and a hope that the new executive director will undertake a process improvement plan for grant processing and payment that increases transparency for service providers and ensures on-time payment for their service to District youth.
Thanks in part to the steadfast advocacy of coalition members who spoke out about the need for recurring funding, the Council also recommended that the $5 million enhancement to the Learn24 budget becomes a recurring investment, to ensure financial stability for organizations and reliable access to programming for youth and families.
We look forward to learning more about DPR’s plan to strategically allocate $3.9 million in OST funding in a way that advances equity and opportunity for DC’s youth and families. With equitable allocation of the funds, these local investments in OST could give more of DC’s young people access to safe places to spend their hours outside of school socializing with peers, receiving tutoring and mentoring from trusted adults, and exploring their passions and talents.
Combined, the funding for the OST Office and OST funding for DPR account for 0.1% of the $19.5 billion budget.