Rep. Jake Wheatley: After-school programs are vital to the future, well-being of our youth
Photo: Office of Rep. Wheatley
As our state continues to recover from the current pandemic, one area that is critical to our youngsters’ development and growth is quality after-school and summer enrichment programming.
As co-chair of the state House of Representatives’ after-school caucus, this is an issue I’ve been championing for some time. This issue is more vital now, as many children have missed significant opportunities to take part in these programs, due to the pandemic, and it’s clear they will need this support as we look ahead to the next school year.
Time and again, research has shown that high-quality after-school and summer enrichment programs not only improve educational outcomes and social and emotional learning, but also higher levels of confidence for young people. Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit organization supporting access to affordable, quality after-school programs, reported lower dropout rates and reduced risky behaviors among young people who consistently participate in after-school activities. Unlike other neighboring states, Pennsylvania does not provide state funding for after-school and summer enrichment programs.
Recently, our caucus held a roundtable discussion with state education officials and community organizations on this subject, primarily focused on the federal American Rescue Plan and the estimated $100 million available for out-of-school time programs. Among the concerns we discussed is something we’ve seen in New York state, where funds earmarked for out-of-school time programs went directly into school districts, creating significant barriers for community organizations running many of these programs to access funding. We also discussed the best ways to serve our communities with these programs, especially those unserved and underserved. Another point of discussion centered on meeting the American Rescue Plan’s mandate of evidence-based programming, and how school districts may not be adequately prepared to meet that requirement.
It’s my hope and my goal that, through our continued work, we will have a comprehensive plan to ensure our young people–regardless of where they live in our commonwealth–can access these effective, proven programs. I’d like to hear from you on this issue–please reach out to my team and me at The People’s Office by calling 412-471-7760 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.