Letter: Afterschool programs are essential to working families
High-quality afterschool programs inspire students to learn, keep kids safe, and support North Dakota’s working parents. In N.D., 75% of children ages 6-13 have all parents in the labor force (KIDS COUNT Data Center, 2007), ranking ND among the top four states with the highest percentage of families with all parents in the workforce.
Parents are busier than ever. Commutes are longer. Many parents are working two or three jobs, or going back to school, to provide for their children. Afterschool is a lifeline for these and many other families. Afterschool programs serve students PreK-12, include organized, regularly scheduled activities in a structured, supervised environment and have an educational or enrichment activity. They can take place in schools, school-age childcare centers, community-based organizations, universities, libraries, museums, camps and other locations.
October is the 20 th annual Lights on Afterschool, the only nationwide event celebrating afterschool programs and their important role in the lives of children, families and communities. Gov. Doug Burgum has proclaimed Oct. 24 as Lights on Afterschool Day in North Dakota. In the proclamation, Burgum declares that, “the citizens of North Dakota stand firmly committed to quality afterschool programs and opportunities because they provide safe, challenging and engaging learning experiences for children, support working families, build stronger communities and engage families, schools and community partners in advancing the welfare of our children.”
Out-of-school time programs, including those offered before and after school, on weekends, summers and during school breaks, give parents peace of mind and keep them from worrying about what their kids are doing when school lets out. Parents don’t have to coordinate rides or juggle daily schedule changes. They know their kids are with caring adults, they are engaged, learning and having fun. They’re getting time for physical activity, help with their homework and inspiration about future career paths.
What happens when parents don’t have afterschool choices? Parental concerns about afterschool results in lost productivity at work and the loss of an average of eight days of work per year, costing U.S. businesses up to $300 billion annually (Community, Families and Work Program at Brandeis University, 2004; Catalyst & Brandeis University, December 2006).
ND parents strongly support afterschool, with 77% of working parents saying afterschool helps them keep their jobs and 86% supporting public funding for afterschool (Afterschool Alliance, 2019).
The need for programs far exceeds the funding available. Among ND’s K-12 students, 19,865 are enrolled in afterschool, but 26,857 are waiting for an available program. 21 st Century Community Learning Centers are the only federally-funded before-school, afterschool and summer learning programs. In ND, 4,351 students were served through 21CCLC programs from August through October 2019 (North Dakota Department of Public Instruction).
High-quality afterschool programs in ND are a fundamental part of helping working families. We, including our state policymakers and our representation in Congress, must do all we can to ensure every child and family who needs afterschool is able to participate. Afterschool is a critical support for our children, families and employers. As parents and leaders, our most important job is ensuring that we give our children – all children – the opportunity to achieve their full potential and build a successful future. Afterschool programs are one of the best ways to do that.
Children benefit from these programs. Parents rely on them. And communities across ND need more of them – we cannot let them down. Visit www.ndafterschoolnetwork.com to find out how you can be involved.