Advocates push for investments in preparing children and youth for future workforce needs, cite PAsmart budget proposal
HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network (PSAYDN) today convened nearly 200 advocates including students, parents, educators, program providers, community leaders, policymakers, business and faith-based leaders and others 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), Allegheny Partners for Out-of-School Time (APOST) and Propel Schools, 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 in the commonwealth 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. The rally featured representatives from the 2018 Pennsylvania STEM Ambassador program and highlighted PAsmart, a proposed investment in STEM and computer science education at all levels. The
2018-19 PAsmart budget proposal would also increase apprenticeships with a 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.
Student entertainment led by the 21st Century Community Learning Center Schools and Homes in Education (SHINE) Schuylkill, Carbon and Luzerne Afterschool program showcased the extensive STEM curriculum modeled in out-of-school time programs. Shenandoah SHINE afterschool program students shared their exciting STEM activities, various experiences and presented the Blue Devil robot. The robot explained how the students coded and programmed a dance.
“Afterschool and summer learning programs are a well-documented solution to supporting the academic and social growth of all students, yet, it remains 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.”
Co-chair Representative Jake Wheatley (D-19) commented on progress made by the bicameral bi-partisan Afterschool Caucus, which provides education, policy development, research and periodic briefings on pertinent issues confronting and relating to the commonwealth’s afterschool infrastructure. Other afterschool caucus members participated in the rally.
Children benefit from afterschool programs in countless ways. In addition to providing a safe, supervised place to go after the school day ends, programs provide 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 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.
“There’s no reason that learning should stop at 3 p.m., particularly if the alternative is unsupervised time in front of a television set, or any of the dangerous or unhealthy behaviors that can ensnare children in the afternoons,” Saccente said.
Like so many other afterschool programs around the nation, more than 140 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 over 400 centers and benefitting more than 600 communities. We need to grow additional funding streams for afterschool and summer learning programs,” Saccente said.
Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network (PSAYDN) 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. PSAYDN is managed by the Center for Schools and Communities. More information is available at PSAYDN.
About The PA 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.