The recently proposed federal budget would all but do away with many children and families access to high quality afterschool and summer learning and enrichment — children and families who live in communities that have been forgotten. That's because the budget proposal eliminates the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers, the public program that help bring these experiences to places where there are none.
At the Andy Roddick Foundation, we kick in when a school and community loses 21st Century funding. But we can't rely solely on private foundations to pick up the slack.
The truth is there is over three decades of research demonstrating afterschool and summer programs help young people not only improve their academic achievement, but also their health and well-being.
According to studies and large-scale analyses, afterschool and summer programs:
- prevent learning loss,
- close achievement gaps, and
- ensure college and career readiness.
The fact is we know afterschool and summer programs are successful. At the Foundation, we have three years of evidence the children we serve have improved attendance rates, increased positive social behaviors, and stronger connections to school and community. Andy's experience of picking up a tennis racket for the first time at age nine after school is merely one example of millions of children whose lives are forever changed outside of the classroom.
That's why we must strongly advocate and, at certain times, even fight hard to protect afterschool and summer funding. We must speak out about the immense benefits these programs bring not only to children and families, but to schools and communities across our nation.
We need to establish the will — yes, reinvent the will — to make every child in America, regardless of his or her class, race or gender, feel that they are cared for, important, loved and worth every penny we invest in their future. We need an unwavering commitment to not just advocate but demand that our local, state and federal government ensure that children's education and well being is a top policy priority as reflected in where we spend our tax dollars.
And, if you represent an organization, add your organization’s name to a sign-on letter developed by the Afterschool Alliance calling for funding for the 21st century program.
In closing, we hope all Americans see potential worthy of investment in the faces of all of our children.