When the majority of schools in 2020-21 were closed for in-person learning, who has answered the call? The expanded learning workforce.
Some staff at afterschool, summer, and out-of-school-time programs provided supervision and support to children of essential workers and other vulnerable children. Others stepped up to meet families’ basic needs, including meals, technology for distance learning, and referrals to language translation and free COVID-19 testing. Some found missing students and focused on re-engaging families. Many could only provide social-emotional support, tutoring, mentoring, and enrichment virtually.
The expanded learning workforce has long been an essential partner to schools and communities, but the pandemic has made this role especially evident.
Facts we’ve learned about the expanded learning workforce
You and your colleagues are a vital part of something big. Collectively, the expanded learning workforce is 30,000 strong in California. It serves 900,000-plus students at 4,500 schools in every county. This is a workforce deeply rooted in community, youth development, and equity:
- 3 in 4 workers live in the community they serve
- The majority are people of color and bilingual in English and Spanish
- The majority are pursuing careers in teaching, afterschool leadership, school counseling, or other careers in education
- 8 in 10 of the kids served are socioeconomically disadvantaged
What’s standing in the way of this workforce?
For a workforce that is so essential to serving our state’s students and families, there is a lot more our state and local leaders could do to support you. Here are the challenges we hear consistently:
- Lagging Funding: The funding the state and federal governments provide to afterschool and summer programs is absurdly low — less than $3 per hour per child — and can’t even keep up with minimum wage or the cost of living.
- Unclear Career Paths: Afterschool programs report that it’s difficult to attract and retain staff members, often because the pay is low (which is linked to lagging funding). If someone wants to stay in the field, there are few opportunities for promotion because full-time positions have been rare, which also means few benefits.
It’s imperative that the needs of the expanded learning workforce are addressed in local, state, and federal relief and recovery efforts.
Our voices are stronger together
How does any community or workforce get the resources they need to succeed? By raising their voices together. When expanded learning programs speak with a united voice, our state and local leaders listen.
That’s how we’ve fought back against budget cuts and won funding increases in past years, and that’s what is needed now. Together, we educate and inform decision makers about the needs of our students, families, and workforce.
The California Afterschool Advocacy Alliance (CA3) is advocating for funding to support and expand access to programs and funding that can be used for cost-of-living increases, hero pay, professional development, and a teacher credentialing pathway. We’re also rallying support for AB 1112 (Carrillo) to help stabilize publicly-funded expanded learning programs in future years.
Want to amplify your voice? Here are some three ways you can get involved:
- Join the Town Hall discussions at the BOOST conference on April 29
- “Young, Educated, and Diverse…We Think” – A lack of comprehensive understanding of the afterschool workforce limits our ability to design programs and policies that best support them. Hear about early efforts to advance the workforce in California, and help build national momentum around defining, understanding, and promoting afterschool as a robust and viable career pathway. Leave with knowledge and tools to move us all toward the recognition and professionalization that the afterschool workforce deserves; hosted by the California AfterSchool Network.
- “Raise Your Voice: Engage, Advocate, and Make Afterschool a Priority in Your Community and Across California” – What does your program need to address the challenges it’s facing? What are the funding and policy opportunities for youth and families in your community? With an infusion of state and federal funding that can be used for expanded learning, now is the time to engage and advocate for your students, families, and staff. You’ll get practical tips and advice to build support for the expanded learning programs and workforce in your community; hosted by the Partnership for Children & Youth.
- Sign up for the California Afterschool Advocacy Alliance (CA3) mailing list to receive the latest news, advocacy tips and opportunities to take action, and consider having your organization become a member.
- Download a fact sheet on the workforce to get more information about the importance of the expanded learning workforce and what steps our state leaders can take to support you.
For breakfast, I started with a little candy.