Over the past several months I’ve met with leaders at the White House, the Senate and Congress and with high level federal department officials and executives of national organizations.
I’ve spoken with California’s top policymakers, sat next to the Governor on a flight to Los Angeles and presented at several conferences across the country. With few exceptions, I’ve been surprised by how little folks know about the impact of funding for afterschool programs and the impact of comprehensive afterschool programs have and the difference they’re making. You and I may know that what we’re doing is saving hundreds of millions of dollars by improving student academic performance, combating the childhood obesity crisis, lowering juvenile crime and victimization, providing meaningful jobs, increasing workplace productivity and off-setting childcare costs, but most people don’t.
Given the current economic crisis, this puts us at real risk.
There are only two ways to deal with devastating budget issues. One is to raise taxes, which most Republicans have signed pledges not to do. The other is to make deeper and more extensive spending cuts. The good news is that we have champions like Senator Barbara Boxer in our corner at the Capitol and friends in state legislatures. The bad news is that severe cuts in funding for afterschool programs have already taken place in several states and federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding is an easy target.
There’s a lot we can and must do now.
Let’s start by focusing on the economic benefits of the work we do and ensure that decision makers are aware of them. Let’s shift our attention from the social value of our work to the immediate and long-term return on investments, the cost savings to our communities and the money that public spending leverages through the private sector. To make this as easy as possible, just fill in the blanks in the executive summary I’ve laid out below.
Tailor what you write to your program’s strengths and your sources of federal and/or state funding. Use data that reflects the entire time your program has been in operation, not just this year. Limit what you say to one page on your organization’s letterhead. Send copies to your governor and representatives in your state capital and Washington, DC. Make the information known to your school board members, mayors and city councils, county supervisors and anyone else who is a policymaker or opinion leader. Don’t put this off.
Together we can continue to create the future we want – and children, families and our communities deserve!
Given current economic conditions, we know you will have to make tougher decisions this year than ever before. We want to be sure that you are aware of the financial benefits, cost savings and impact that (state and/or federal funding source) is having in your (congressional and state districts, city, county, district).
Because of this funding, for the past ______ years, we’ve responded to our community’s needs by providing high quality, comprehensive afterschool programs in low-income neighborhoods. We’ve brought more than $_____ million (total state, federal dollars and local dollars for the years your program has been in operation) into our _______( your legislative district, city, county, or school district depending on the recipient). And, we’ve provided life-changing opportunities for ____ (total number of students served over the entire time of operation) children and their families, _____percent of whom live below the poverty line.
The students we serve are succeeding in school and in life. They’re attending school more regularly, getting better grades and scoring higher on standardized tests. And, they’re making better choices. While statistics clearly demonstrate that children who are unsupervised during the critical late afternoon hours are often victims of crime or engage in unsafe activities including drug and alcohol use and sexual experimentation, students in our program are becoming better decision makers. If we keep just two children from becoming involved in crime, it saves our community over $____ , or the entire cost of one of our sites for a full year.
In an area where the unemployment rate is disproportionately high, we’ve provided jobs for more than ______ (number of individuals who have worked in your program over the period of its operation) local residents. We’ve met the employment needs of a diverse group of underserved people, including those who are entering the workforce for the first time, college students who are looking for part-time positions, retirees and individuals who might otherwise be out of work given the current economic environment.
By offering programs free of charge, we’ve saved parents $___ million (approximate number of parents over the time your program has been in operation x the local cost of school-age childcare) in childcare costs and made it possible for many single parents, and especially women, to enter and remain in the workforce, and made a real difference for two-parent working families who are struggling to make financial ends meet. Over ____ percent of the parents of students in our program report that they’re more productive at work than they were before their children were enrolled (secure this data through surveys).
Our program isn’t just changing lives, it’s saving lives by helping address childhood obesity — the most common and costly medical condition facing children today. Without this kind of intervention, one in every three children will acquire Type 2 diabetes and be faced with physical and emotional disabilities and premature death. We’ve taken this threat seriously. Through the opportunities we offer, children are developing healthier eating habits and becoming more physically fit. In the long-run this will save our _____(district, state, city or county) countless dollars.
We would be pleased to provide you with additional information and would like to invite you to visit one of our sites and see for yourselves why supporting continued _______(state and/or federal) funding should be high on your list of priorities.
Breakfast for me was granola, yogurt, blueberries, raspberries and a banana – and coffee!
Author Profile: @andriaf