Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Turning Point for Expanded Learning: Behind DCAYA’s Bold FY18 Budget Ask

In June of last year, DCAYA released a report which documented the declining trends in funding for and access to afterschool and summer expanded learning opportunities for DC children and youth. We noted that DC Public Schools (DCPS) elementary schools with the highest “at-risk” student enrollment also tended to have the lowest share of available afterschool enrollment slots through Out of School Time Programs (OSTP), and that the District’s FY16 budget included cuts to OSTP, with programs being offered at eight fewer DCPS Title I schools from SY2014-15 to SY2015-16. 

In addition, local funding for community-based out-of-school time (OST) programs had declined by 60% since 2010, resulting in only a quarter of the locally-funded slots for community-based afterschool and summer learning that were there for kids just six years earlier (from close to 10,000 in 2010 to under 2,500 in 2016). Much of this decline happened as funds were administered through the DC Trust, which closed its doors in September 2016.

Promising Trends. At the start of the current school year, there were 7,700 OSTP afterschool slots in DCPS, up from 6,790 the previous year, and the overall OSTP allocation in the FY2017 budget reflected a 33% increase from the previous school year. New funding covered OSTP programming at three additional schools, more than 800 additional afterschool enrollment spaces, and 183 added FTE positions to provide afterschool coverage at the schools. According to the School Budget Development Guide, DCPS is also adding three more schools to OSTP in FY2018. 

At the same time, Deputy Mayor for Education (DME) Jennifer Niles and members of Council have since shown collaborative leadership in determining a path forward following the dissolution of the DC Trust, and after several months of meetings and a public hearing last October, the DC Council unanimously passed the Office of Out of School Time Grants and Youth Outcomes Establishment Act on December 20, 2016, which the mayor signed last week on February 15, 2017.

We believe that FY2018 could be a turning point. As we look back on the work that DCPS has done over the past year to expand access through OSTP and to strengthen community partnerships, and the work of the DME and community partners to forge a path forward since the dissolution of the DC Trust, we see an opportunity ahead in FY2018 to scale up locally-funded afterschool programs in the District. DCAYA is convinced the time is right to inform and influence the re-creation of the youth development system here in the District with the strongest investment in expanded learning we’ve seen in years. This year, we support an initial $10 million dollar investment in expanded learning programs through the new Youth Office in the FY18 budget. This funding will support community-based OST providers to better meet the needs of some 6,000 additional children and youth. 

Next Steps. The DC Council has approved the schedule for the coming months’ performance oversight and budget hearings. We'll be reaching out to help sign members up to testify at the budget hearings in the spring, but in the meantime if you know you are already planning to testify, please reach out to Joseph Gavrilovich. You can also review our resources for advocacy season and advice for writing testimony, as well as our issue brief on expanded learning.

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