The pandemic has brought funding barriers to the forefront. According to the Hunt Institute’s tracker at least 17 states have allocated COVID relief funds to afterschool and summer programs so far. However, a recent survey has cited that 61 percent of afterschool programs have reported high levels of concern around permanent closure.
States’ efforts to support afterschool include focusing policy and funding on certain populations (e.g. at-risk or older youth) or issue areas (e.g. STEM). Other states have taken steps to collect information the afterschool landscape within their state to inform future policy and funding opportunities.
Session 2021 Legislative Summary
During the 2021 legislative year, policymakers continued to focus on addressing disrupted learning due to COVID-19. One approach lawmakers have used to reimagine accelerated learning is leveraging quality afterschool programs to reengage students.
States have looked at supporting afterschool programs by appropriating funds. For example, California Assembly Bill 86 allocated $4.6 billion for Expanded Learning Opportunities Grants. There is no application required to receive these grants; however, to be eligible for the full funding, districts must implement a learning recovery program that provides supplemental instruction, support for social and emotional well-being, and meals to specific student groups.
Another trend around afterschool programming revolved around investing in literacy-based afterschool programs. In Louisiana, with the passing of Senate Bill 222 in 2021, that looks like focusing on comprehensive early literacy initiatives. The bill focuses on students in kindergarten through third grade who demonstrate literacy gaps. The bill focuses on students in kindergarten through third grade who demonstrate literacy gaps. These students are provided research-based literacy interventions and supports, which may include before- and after-school literacy programs, by a teacher or tutor with specialized literacy training.
Over the years, states have enacted legislation to support the creation of expanded learning opportunities councils and task forces over the past years. These members (typically, compromised of state agency representatives, community stakeholders, and state legislators) are often assigned to collect information on the state’s extended learning opportunities landscape. Oklahoma did this in 2021 by enacting House Bill 1882 and creating the Out of Schooltime Task Force. The 19-member task force will review existing maps of afterschool programs and highlight gaps in access, identify and evaluate practices to improve and increase the number of quality, affordable out-of-school programs in the state, and review tools to evaluate successful outcomes of programs.
One of the newer trends in 2021 was legislation that acknowledges that engaging learning experiences can take place outside of the classroom and students may receive credits for such experiences. By enacting House Bill 172 in Idaho, it adds to existing law to provide that students may receive credit for extended learning opportunities or by demonstrating prior knowledge of a content area. Similarly, Alabama enacted House Bill 486 that provides a means for allowing students to request and receive credit for participation in extended learning opportunities.
Although COVID-19 continues to leave some unknowns, legislation around afterschool programs continues to be a focus for state policymakers moving forward.