Friday, April 10, 2015

Response to DCPS's "FY16 Afterschool and Extended Day Overview"

Photo courtesy of Kid Power, an afterschool and summer program.
After our last blog on the cuts to afterschool funding, DCPS released a statement attempting to clarify the afterschool funding for next year. Unfortunately, the data and explanations they offer in this new statement still seem to indicate that afterschool programming will be reduced.  

We spent time today working with DCPS to understand their statement and the difference between our analyses. One problem that we identified together is that the internal budget documents they are using do not reflect the same numbers as the Mayor’s budget. While we understand that school-based funding can be prone to frequent readjustments, we do hope that in the near future we can all be working with identical, clear information at the school level, and the aggregate level. DCPS has been gracious in helping resolve this, and we both are committed to continuing dialogue about this important issue affecting students and families. We are also committed to helping them improve their data and analysis as they do the difficult work of budgeting for a myriad of variables.

Moving forward we hope that DCPS, along with the DC Council - who has the power to change this budget - will take a closer look at the quality of the data and analysis leading to cuts in afterschool programs.

Here are our top concerns specifically regarding the most recent DCPS statement on afterschool funding. These have been shared with DCPS and we have included updates from them where applicable.

1.) The chart provided by DCPS shows that school-level afterschool programming was funded at $3.7m in FY15 and will drop to $2.9m in FY16. However, in a later paragraph, it references having to fill a FY15 and FY16 budget gap of $6.5m in funding lost in late FY14. This would then suggest that the difference between FY15 and FY16 is much larger than referenced in the chart. We are continuing to work with DCPS to understand what staff positions or services this $6.5m covered, and how this loss of funding may impact FY16. 

2.) DCPS is increasing the number of schools that have extended day from 25 to 65, but only adding $800,000 to do this. According to the chart, it took $5.4m to have extended day in 25 schools, so realistically it does not seem possible that only $800,000 is needed to add 40 more schools. Clarity on the budget process here is needed.

3.) Last year, the Chancellor offered Extended Day to 50 schools, and according to the chart, only 25 schools chose to add the extra hour (many of those schools only accepted Extended Day for certain grades). The chart says that 65 schools will have Extended Day next year, but there is no analysis that shows that 65 schools will actually agree to implement the practice. Since there was no known discussion with the teacher’s union, parents, or the wider community, it does not seem that Extended Day should be budgeted for 40 new schools when it is unlikely that it will be implemented in 40 schools. 

4.) The chart shows an estimated 7,000 students were enrolled in Extended Day last year. There is no explanation for how this estimation was reached. More problematic is that ‘TBD’ is listed for the students expected to be served in Extended Day in FY16. We find it troubling that budget decisions are being made without well-founded estimates on simple data, like estimated youth to be served. We hope this issue will be addressed moving forward.

5.) The chart also does not explain how many of those estimated 7,000 students in Extended Day in FY15 overlapped with the 6,790 who were in afterschool. In the narrative of the FY16 budget, DCPS stated that they want to grow Extended Day based on improved DCCAS scores that were found at schools with Extended Day. However, it appears that this funding is not based off of a “clean” sample. It is possible, if not likely, that the students who improved their test scores were in afterschool programs as well as Extended Day. Before major budget reallocations happen, causation should be more closely analyzed. Afterschool could, in fact, be the cause of improved test scores and de-funding it would drive test scores down. 

6.) Many DCPS programs already have the first hour focused on academics, not including homework; it is called the Academic Power Hour. The DCPS afterschool programs have a curriculum that was developed by the Central Office’s Office of Out-of-School Time Programs that aligns the Power Hour with Common Core. All DCPS sponsored afterschool programs use Power Hour. If DCPS truly wants students to have another hour in the classroom, like Extended Day would have, then it should require all community-based organizations providing afterschool to implement the Power Hour. The advantage of using the afterschool Power Hour, rather than Extended Day, is the community-based afterschool providers can come in and assist the teacher. Also, with this model, community-based organizations can still have enough time with the students in order to meet their grant requirements. 

7.) Many of the afterschool programs rely on partnerships with community-based organizations like DC Scores, Horton’s Kids, Kid Power, etc. These organizations rely on funding from grants made by the DC Trust or other Federal grants. Often, to meet grant requirements, programs must spend a specified amount of time each day with students. That is why the recent DCPS statement is not completely accurate when it says that schools can have Extended Day and afterschool. With one hour blocked off for Extended Day, community-based organizations may not be able to meet grant requirements, and thus won’t be able to partner with those schools. Schools that offer Extended Day to certain grades could still work with CBO partners to provide afterschool to the remaining students. However, given the reduction in coordinators and overall community-based funding streams, we worry that this may remain difficult and not fully resolve our capacity concerns. 
  • The amount of in-kind services that DCPS afterschool receives from its community-based partners cannot be understated. It is estimated to be $20m. If, because of time restrictions due to Extended Day, these community-based organizations cannot secure their sources of funding, then DCPS will lose part, if not all, of this $20m. 
8.) According to the chart, it took $5.4m to pay for one hour of Extended Day at 25 schools in FY15. Also according to the chart, it only took $3.7m (or, more accurately, $6.5m) to pay for two-three hours at 55 schools. Based on these numbers, afterschool programs are cheaper than extended day. So cost-savings does not seem to justify the decision to move to an Extended Day model vs. an afterschool model.

9.) The DCPS statement was very clear about afterschool funding for central office staff: It will be cut drastically. As it is stated in the budget, 25 afterschool staff members will lose their jobs due to the funding cut. The new statement simply says “tasks can be absorbed by other DCPS teams.” This is concerning because there is no indication of a plan for which “other teams” will absorb the tasks. In addition, it is difficult to believe that other DCPS teams have additional time within their workday to effectively facilitate coordination between schools and CBOs.
  • What a loss of coordinators will mean: Principals, or other over-stretched school staff members, will have to coordinate logistics (facilities, paperwork, security, etc.) for multiple programs and hundreds of kids. Community-based organizations may have to end several partnerships because of the barriers this change will cause. With community-based organizations bringing $20m to DCPS afterschool programs, this change could result in a significant loss of resources provided to DCPS children.  
  • What a loss of OSTP central office staff will mean: When situations arise, coordinators will not have recourse from a central location with expertise and the ability to engage in a higher level discussion with principals or community-based organizations. Because the OSTP staff ensures that DCPS is partnering with quality providers, the overall quality of afterschool programming will decrease. The strategic approach to blending the traditional school day with quality afterschool partners will be lost. Without the central office, there will not be personnel to quickly respond to incoming data on enrollment, afterschool meal coordination, etc. The intensive, complicated afterschool enrollment system will lose quality, and there will be more barriers to students enrolling—the OSTP staff has to do intensive, behind-the-scenes work to address TANF eligibility requirements and making enrollment more accessible to parents. 

In closing, we look forward to seeing the most up-to-date individual school funding for afterschool, as promised in the DCPS statement, both for the sake of policy decision-makers and parents. As we have in the past, we urge local funding for afterschool programming instead of moving money within the agency or relying on unstable federal grants. Further, we hope the DC Council, DCPS, and sister agencies recognize that the funding cuts to DCPS afterschool programs is happening at a time when the Trust afterschool grants are at-risk and it appears that the federal 21st Century Learning grants may not be available (at the same level) for the District. DCPS, the DC Trust, and 21st Century Learning grants are the main sources of funding for afterschool programs across the District. The afterschool funding landscape appears dire at this point.

We are still engaging in conversations with DCPS and look forward to talking more with the Education Committee and the DC Council on crafting a budget that is protects this valuable resource.

On Monday, April 13th, DCAYA will publish tools to help providers and parents advocate to keep CBO-run afterschool programs within DC public schools. Sign-up to our mailing list to be one of the first to receive the advocacy strategy and get timely updates on all youth-related news in DC. 

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