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Keep after-school programs alive

Quality after-school programs do a tremendous amount to help children and youth succeed in school and in life, and on Thursday more than a million people in communities across the nation will turn the lights on for after school.

This annual event underscores the need to invest in after-school programs, which provide homework help, mentors, healthy meals, sports, robotics, computer programming, art, dance, music, job and college readiness, and countless opportunities for team-based learning. These programs give children and youth a chance to discover their talents and passions. They keep kids safe, inspire them to learn and give parents peace of mind while they are at work.

There are not nearly enough after-school programs to meet the need in our communities. One in five students is unsupervised after the school day ends. Our state will be stronger and the next generation more successful when we change that. Today, for every child in an after-school program, two more are waiting to get in. Unmet demand is especially high in rural communities and communities of concentrated poverty.

A large and growing body of evidence demonstrates improvements in attendance, behavior, academic achievement and more among children who participate in after-school programs. Researchers have also found that after-school programs encourage increased parental involvement – an important building block for student success.

Governments, parents, philanthropies, businesses and others support after-school programs, but investments are frequently under threat; this year the president proposed a budget that would have eliminated federal funding for after-school and summer learning programs. While Congress has rejected the call to eliminate after-school funding, there is still a threat of cuts that could affect 100,000 students.

Supporting after school is a smart investment in our children, our families and our communities. Let’s protect that investment and keep after school alive.