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DC Council Support Shows Value of Out-of-School Time Programs
Especially as the District recovers from more than a year of pandemic life, children and families need the social, emotional, and academic benefits that OST provides.
July 22, 2021 -- During this week’s initial vote on the District’s FY22 budget, the DC Council increased funding for out-of-school-time programs, adding $5 million on top of previous investments by Mayor Bowser, resulting in a significant increase from $13.6 million last year to a proposed $21.8 million.
This investment comes at a crucial time for students as they prepare to return to school this fall after an exceptionally challenging year. Access to the academic, social, and emotional support OST provides will be essential in dealing with the youth mental health epidemic that has arisen from COVID-19 stress and isolation, and the academic acceleration schools are implementing in response to learning loss.
Thanks to the increased funding, more students will now be able to access and benefit from programs. More families will be able to confidently return to their jobs, knowing that their children will be safe, stimulated, and set up for success at school and at home.
Funding could also be used to help programs build capacity, hire needed staff, partner with more DCPS and public charter schools, and invest in technology and resources to enhance programming.
“Local dollars are a key funding source for programs like Higher Achievement that serve the talented Black and Brown children in our city, and we know that there are not enough affordable and high-quality afterschool opportunities for every family who wants them,” said Thalia Washington, Director of Higher Achievement, and a member of the DC OST Coalition. “Additional funding allows us to serve more young people who desperately need enrichment, mentoring, and social emotional support as schools plan to reopen this fall.”
Just as OST stepped up during the pandemic to support students with the transition to distance learning, OST programs will play a critical role in helping students prepare to return to in-person learning through providing academic support, helping students connect with peers, rebuild relationships with trusted mentors, and provide social and emotional support.
DC Action appreciates the efforts of members of the DC OST Coalition to raise awareness of the benefits of OST and advocate for restoring funding so all families in DC have access to a high-quality, affordable OST program. Our partners have testified before the Council; shared their stories in blogs and videos of youth participants; posted on social media; and met with legislators, education leaders, and stakeholders to advocate for OST. Parents, students, and OST directors and program staff have all played a major role in getting us to this point.
“Look at a budget and you will see the priorities beyond the words and headlines,” said Chief Advancement Officer of Fair Chance and OST Coalition Member Neel Saxena. “The $5 million increase in the OST budget for FY2022 sends a message to youth that their social, emotional, and academic development are important and that they are seen. It also sends the message that out-of-school-time nonprofit providers are valued and recognizes the contributions and impact they have on neighborhoods and communities.”
We look forward to the DC Council’s next FY22 budget vote on August 3. Then we will begin working to encourage the DC Council to find sustainable funds to ensure the future stability of the District’s OST community.
DC Action is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization making the District of Columbia a place where all kids grow up safe, resilient, powerful and heard. DC Action uses research, data, and a racial equity lens to break down barriers that stand in the way of all kids reaching their full potential. We are home to DC Kids Count, Under 3 DC, DC Out-of-School Time Coalition, the DC Home Visiting Council and the Youth Homelessness Advocacy Coalition. Our collaborative advocacy campaigns bring the power of young people and all residents to raise their voices to create change.