By Autumn Rivera
What are parents’ opinions of afterschool programs? Afterschool Alliance recently released its 2020 America After 3PM report answering this question.
Since 2004, the report has provided the most comprehensive national and state-specific account of how children and youth spend their afterschool hours. The report includes responses from 30,000 U.S. families and builds upon the surveys conducted in 2004, 2009 and 2014.
The time from 3 to 6 p.m. is the largest gap where students are out of school while parents may still be at work. This report details parent satisfaction levels with the quality of afterschool programs, barriers to participation and disparities (including income, race, ethnicity and community type).
The survey includes fact sheets for each state, including demand for programming, parental satisfaction levels, cost, access, the number of students attending afterschool and more. The report shows pre-pandemic responses and includes a separate survey of parents from this fall.
One of the biggest takeaways from America After 3PM is the continued demand for afterschool programs. For every child enrolled, three are waiting to get in. That equates to roughly 25 million children who are unable to access afterschool programs. The barriers cited are program cost, availability and transportation or accessibility.
As the study was primarily completed pre-pandemic, the demand has remained strong during the pandemic as more parents see afterschool as critical support. As demand has increased, the research also has shown that the pandemic has exacerbated the inequalities in opportunities to afterschool programs—especially in-person—for Black, Latino and low-income families.
The survey reports an overwhelming bipartisan parental support to provide additional funding for afterschool programs: 87% of parents believe public funding should be used to expand afterschool and out-of-time opportunities to combat learning loss and isolation caused by COVID-19 and help parents return to work.
As many schools have moved to virtual or hybrid schedules, 3 in 4 parents want afterschool programs to receive additional funding to provide an enriching environment and supervision for students during virtual learning days. Support for public funding for afterschool programs has now reached its highest level in the history of America After 3PM, over a decade of research.
As policymakers’ concerns about learning loss continue to grow, research shows afterschool can be an essential part of the pandemic recovery. According to the Hunt Institute's tracker at least 17 states have allocated COVID relief funds to afterschool and summer programs.
According to a recent survey, however, the future of afterschool programs may be in jeopardy, with 61% of programs reported high levels of concern around permanent closure. Most programs indicated that continued funding for afterschool programs could help ensure safety measures are met, including sanitation and masks.
COVID-19 relief funding alongside the reduction of barriers in partnering with schools could help kids re-engage in social, emotional and academic learning. As students need help catching up and keeping up this year, state policymakers and schools might consider the role that afterschool and summer learning could play.
Autumn Rivera is a research analyst with NCSL’s Education Program.