Pennsylvania will receive $100 million in federal funds to support out-of school and afterschool programs.

Photo: Office of Rep. Wheatley

As our state continues to recover from the current pandemic, one area that continues to be critical to our youngsters’ development and growth is what I discussed last month: quality afterschool and summer enrichment programming.

Just a few weeks ago, we officially entered the summer season. For many of our families and young people, this is a long overdue return to some semblance of normalcy. With more parents returning to work from months of working from home and their children being out of the home more, it’s become clear how vital these out-of-school programs are to our youngsters and to our economy.

Thanks to the tremendous support from our congressional partners, including Congressmen Mike Doyle and Conor Lamb, our state will receive $100 million in federal funds to support out-of-school and afterschool programs. That includes local programs through such organizations as Urban Impact, the Northside Youth Athletic Association and Project Destiny.

As co-chair of the state House of Representatives’ afterschool caucus, this is an issue I’ve been championing for some time. More than a year ago, my colleagues and I passed a resolution asking the Joint State Government Commission to investigate what our return on investment is for our afterschool and out-of-school time programs.

Time and again, research has shown that high-quality afterschool and summer enrichment programs not only improve educational outcomes and social and emotional learning, but also instill higher levels of confidence for young people. Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit organization supporting access to affordable, quality afterschool programs, reported lower dropout rates and reduced risky behaviors among young people consistently participating in afterschool activities. Unlike other neighboring states, Pennsylvania does not provide state funding for afterschool and summer enrichment programs.

No doubt about it, there is value in having quality nurturing programming for our children. These programs help build stronger adults who play vital roles in our communities. They help reduce violence, strengthen our student scholars’ academic proficiencies, and increase their physical and mental health. However, we can’t continue to just hope these programs survive difficult economic times. We must work to ensure their survival and growth by directly investing in these programs in a systemic and strategic way.

I look forward to seeing the commission’s report on the financial return of our afterschool and out-of-school programs. I am confident it will show that not only do these programs work, but it will also make it clear that it’s time for our state to provide dedicated, consistent funding to support these critical, valuable 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 jwheatley@pahouse.net.

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