Advocates push for investments in preparing children and youth for future workforce needs, cite introduction of House Resolution on Afterschool Return On Investment.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network (PSAYDN) today convened nearly 200 advocates including students and parents, educators and program providers, policymakers, community, business and faith-based leaders from across Pennsylvania at the capitol to highlight the importance of afterschool and out-of-school time youth development programs. Numerous legislative visits reminded the commonwealth’s leaders that afterschool programs provide many benefits, including keeping kids safe, inspiring them to learn and helping working families. The event was a call to action for all levels of government, philanthropy, business and every sector to step up and do more to support afterschool initiatives.
The rally, in partnership with the Pennsylvania School-Age Child Care Alliance (Penn SACCA), and Allegheny Partners for Out-of-School Time (APOST), elevated those voices to elected officials, demonstrating why these programs are so vital to Pennsylvania’s economy and future workforce.
The event focused on investing in quality science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs that help inspire young people to pursue careers they never imagined before; and help them gain skills needed for virtually every job in the future. Representatives from the 2019 Pennsylvania STEM Ambassador program were recognized.
Judd Pittman, consultant to the Secretary of Education on STEM at Pennsylvania Department of Education highlighted PAsmart, a proposed investment in STEM and computer science education at all levels. The 2019-20 PAsmart budget proposal would also increase apprenticeships with the overall goal of doubling the number of registered apprentices by 2025. Additional funding would develop career and technical education and STEM career pathways to help students learn about career options. The investment would help to decrease the thousands of STEM jobs that are going unfilled due to the gap between the skills employers need and the skills workers have.
“Afterschool and summer learning programs are a well-documented solution to supporting the academic and social growth of all students, yet, they remain an under-resourced strategy for closing the achievement gap in our state,” said Laura Saccente, PSADYN director. “Communities that invest in keeping all young people learning, safe and healthy reap measurable rewards in stronger schools, safer neighborhoods and a better prepared workforce.”
Afterschool Caucus Co-chair Representative Jake Wheatley (D-39) introduced a House Resolution that asks the Joint State Government Commission to conduct a study that would determine return on investment for dedicated afterschool funding in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Children benefit from afterschool programs in countless ways. In addition to providing a safe, supervised place to go after the school day ends, programs deliver academic help, opportunities to engage with mentors, participate in sports and fitness activities, and work in teams as they learn to program computers, plant gardens, volunteer to help those in need, learn music and dance, and much more.
“Afterschool works for Pennsylvania’s kids, families, communities and economy,” Saccente added. “These programs are in place and extremely cost-effective, but right now 811,954 Pennsylvania kids are on the waitlist. We need to scale up these programs to help our kids prepare for the jobs of tomorrow and secure our state’s future prosperity.”
In Pennsylvania, 85 percent of parents support public funding for afterschool programs, and that support crosses all political party and geographic lines. The “America After 3PM” study finds that parents value afterschool programs for many reasons, including that they keep kids safe and out of trouble, offer opportunities for physical activity and deliver learning activities that are unavailable during the regular school day.
Speakers at the rally stated that afterschool programs in Pennsylvania improve prospects for students and strengthen families, schools and communities; and they encouraged lawmakers to support afterschool funding. The rally highlighted the need to protect Pennsylvania’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers, the only federal funding stream directly supporting afterschool programs in the commonwealth. The 2019 federal proposed budget eliminates this funding stream, which would be an estimated loss of approximately $42 million for Pennsylvania.
“By providing places where youth are being mentored by caring adults while their parents are at work, afterschool programs contribute to strengthening youth and their families, improving community safety, and meeting a basic need for economic stability in our communities,” Saccente said.
“Like so many other afterschool programs around the nation, more than 149 programs in Pennsylvania are supported by funding from the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative. The program is vital to children and youth in Pennsylvania, serving nearly 40,000 high-need students, operating more than 470 centers and benefitting more than 600 communities. We need to grow additional funding streams for afterschool and summer learning programs,” Saccente said.
The Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network (PSAYDN) at Center for Schools and Communities promotes sustainable, high-quality out-of-school time youth development programs through advocacy and capacity building to enhance the welfare of Pennsylvania’s children, youth and families. PSAYDN believes all children and youth deserve access to programs that encourage positive youth development and support the successful transition to adulthood. For more information, go to www.psaydn.org.
About the Pennsylvania STEM Ambassadors
The Pennsylvania STEM Ambassador Program serves to train interested and experienced individuals to engage proactively with state agencies, policymakers, business and industry leaders, education entities and community providers to share data, experiences, networks and policy needs. The Ambassador Program is made possible through the Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network (PSAYDN), with training support from the Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC) and STEM Education Coalition, and sponsorship from the Afterschool Alliance and Overdeck Family Foundation.