Testimony to DC Council on Out of School Time Programming

Matthew Hanson OST Testimony

Testimony to DC Council on Out of School Time Programming | Matthew Hanson, Chief of Staff, DC Action for Children

Out of school time programs play a vital role in social and emotional functioning of children and youth. Now, more than ever, this matters. The isolation, exposure to adverse childhood experiences, and loss of opportunity  our young people are facing right now cannot be overstated.  We know that one in four children in DC have experienced a traumatic childhood experience—a number that is likely increasing during the pandemic. OST programs are important when it comes to providing safe places for kids to connect with each other and with caring adult mentors. The opportunity for young people to process the events of this year will be critically important. Providers are prepared to offer those safe spaces for our young people. 

The Mayor’s proposed budget allocates $13,130,000 for FY 2021, a reduction of $666,000 from the FY 2020 budget. The DME’s office has stated that the cuts will not impact grantmaking dollars for FY 2021 and the cuts will impact overhead costs. We ask the DC Council to maintain the funding the Mayor has allocated for out of school time funding and hold these programs harmless. 

Funding for OST is a matter of racial equity. Our subsidized programs are concentrated in lower-income and more racially and income-diverse wards (1, 4, 5, 7, and 8). Much less capacity for programming in Wards 2 and 3 reflects the fact that higher-income, mostly white families can privately afford extracurriculars for their children, while low-income families—who tend to be mostly Black, Latinx, or immigrant—cannot. 

Any cut or reduction in funding for these programs would hit families of color the hardest. This would be unacceptable even under normal circumstances, but at a time when the Black child poverty rate is 12 times that of the white child poverty rate, and likely only growing during the pandemic, we cannot afford these or other cuts to vital programs and human services. 

Demand for our services has gone up. Schools know that this period of home instruction and reduced summer learning opportunities will likely negatively impact student academic outcomes. OST programs are key partners in helping students bridge academic gaps. If given the resources needed for next school year, we know that providers can help our young people rebound from this period of lost instructional time. 

Programming continues. Many are offering distance learning programming and hope to do so for as long as needed depending on what happens with the COVID-19 crisis. Families and youth depend on these programs, which can serve as a lifeline to their community and friends and are critical to maintaining emotional and mental health as we all struggle with social isolation. 

Even if school schedules remain modified, providers are prepared to continue programming. Funding will not go to waste. We cannot anticipate what school year 20-21 will look like. But this spring and summer has shown the adaptability of this sector to meet real time needs. OST programs quickly pivoted to virtual programming, have provided much needed wraparound support to families (such as food delivery, resource connections), and helped students access online instruction using technology when schools were struggling to respond. If given the resources needed for next school year, they will continue to meet the dynamic needs of children, youth, and families. 

Families and youth are counting on the DC Council. Since the Mayor has released her budget, we have been working hard to engage parents about their needs during the pandemic. Recently we convened a virtual town hall with the Chairman. The focus of that discussion was education, and numerous participants brought up the importance of out of school time programming and called on all of our elected officials to make sure it is held harmless during this difficult budget season. 

Since then, we have also started circulating a petition to #SaveDCAfterSchool and in just a couple of weeks have garnered over 500 signatures from residents who value and rely on these programs. 

We urge the DC Council to protect funding for out of school time programming so every young person has access to the opportunities they need to have a fair shot.