This week in Mayor Muriel Bowser’s inaugural address for her third term, the mayor pledged to build “the most robust free before- and after-school programs in the nation.” DC Action, home of the DC Out-of-School Time Coalition, is pleased to hear this exciting announcement and eager to learn more about the mayor’s plans for significant OST expansion.
In recent years, the District has made strides toward universal access to affordable, high-quality programming. Increased local and federal funding has helped add more spots in many in-demand programs and helped some community-based organizations weather the impact of the ongoing pandemic. However, we continue to hear from families that their desired program is unaffordable, difficult to transport their child to, or not accessible for their child with special needs. Community-based organizations continue to face extraordinary administrative burdens, staffing shortages, and insufficient funding to serve the amount of young people who are interested in their program. Meanwhile, District youth need mentorship, tutoring, mental health support, and a safe space to foster creativity, confidence, and joy.
As Mayor Bowser and her team work to chart a new course for before and afterschool opportunities, we urge them to consider the following:
- The District should prioritize meaningful and consistent community engagement with youth and families to ensure that program offerings fit their needs and interests.
- Organizations that offer high-quality, free or affordable programming must have access to multi-year, year-round funding for long-term sustainability and expansion.
- The District must invest resources in creative, effective ways to connect families and youth with programs that fit their requirements by location, program type, cost, and other individualized needs.
- Program providers including traditional public and public charter schools must have resources to collaborate across common goals, including a data and information sharing mechanism that allows program staff to provide individualized support to meet student needs and interests, and vice versa.
- Agencies that support OST – including the OST Office, OSSE, the Department of Parks and Recreation, DCPS, and public charter schools – must find ways to collaborate in order to create and implement a shared vision for before and afterschool programs in the District.
- The Office of OST Grants & Youth Outcomes (OST Office) needs adequate staffing, resources, and infrastructure so that grant applications are reviewed and awards are disbursed efficiently and transparently.
DC Action looks forward to supporting Mayor Bowser’s planning of this pivotal initiative, and advocating for sufficient public funding that will be needed to meet this goal. We will continue to monitor the progress of this expansion and provide updates as we receive them.