During this moment in history, youth champions everywhere need to take an offensive stance against the structural inequities and systemic racism uniquely unveiled by COVID-19. Together, we can join forces and unite by taking the following actions: 1) advocate with urgency for the voices of young people most impacted to be heard and amplified across our state, 2) join forces with United for Action: Housing for Youth and Families to end youth and child homelessness, 3) call to expand summer and afterschool enrichment to end the achievement gap, 4) plug into the Minnesota Education Equity Partnership, advance, and sustain a racially diverse teaching force, 5) work collaboratively to increase and improve youth civic engagement, 6) increase the number of families utilizing the K-12 Education Tax Credit, 7) change policy, and 8) invest more and lean into community-led grantmaking and focused resources on communities most impacted, not the most “comfortable” to work with.

In 2019, sociologist Sean Reardon at Stanford University studied achievement gaps in every school in America and found that the difference in poverty rates between predominantly Black and predominantly white schools explains the achievement gaps we see and why white schools tend to show higher test scores than Black schools. When white and Black schools have the same poverty rates, Reardon didn’t see a difference in academic achievement. The problem is that Black students are more often poor and attending schools with more poor students. And other than a handful of high-performing charter schools in a few cities, he couldn’t find examples of academic excellence among schools with a high-poverty student body.

With municipal budget season upon us, agency leaders must stand in solidarity with racial justice movement leaders and take swift action. The values shift in this moment is palpable and budgets are values. But how? With a coalition of 17 afterschool agencies here in Los Angeles, so far, this is what we have done or have learned.

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative has positively impacted communities across the country since the inception of the funding stream in 1994. 21st CCLC programs serve as a critical piece in addressing many issues today. These programs provide students with unique opportunities they might not otherwise have access to. Programs are positively impacting students and the communities they serve. Many programs are reporting academic, behavioral, and social and emotional gains among students, and decreased juvenile crime within the community.

This imperative is as true now as it was before the pandemic. Schools and districts will be overwhelmed with a panoply of student needs in the fall, and we must ensure that every single child, regardless of disability, has the chance to make up for lost time. This is why we are urging Senate leadership to ensure that any future COVID-19 relief package provides significant additional funding for school districts, including $11 billion in dedicated funding under IDEA for state grants, to appropriately meet the needs of students who experience disabilities.

Five students from Julia R. Masterman Laboratory & Demonstration School successfully made their case in their application to the Historical and Museum Commission with help from teachers at Masterman and professors and archivists at the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, and the University of Michigan. With the submission of their 104-page application, the students were able to document the national impact of the Philadelphia protest.

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