State and Federal Investments in Afterschool Programs

By Adrienne Fischer | Vol . 27, No. 42 | December 2019


Afterschool and summer programs promote social and emotional learning, academic engagement and positive youth behaviors. Research showing that regular participation in evidence-based programs leads to positive outcomes, particularly among students at risk of academic failure, has prompted federal, state and local governments to invest more in afterschool and summer programs.

In addition to more traditional approaches to afterschool, communities are also investing in holistic, whole-child strategies that incorporate afterschool and summer learning. Creating flexible funding streams enables states, districts and schools to design expanded learning opportunities that accommodate the needs of each community.

State Action

At least 27 states funded afterschool programs in 2019 through budget actions that must be approved by both legislative chambers and the governor. Funding is distributed either directly, through grant programs or line items for specific programs, or as part of broader youth-serving initiatives, in which afterschool programs are a required, recommended or allowable expense. These investments totaled nearly $1.7 billion.

Recent Legislative Examples. New York AB 2003 funded afterschool programs directly through the state-funded Empire After School Program. The current budget provides continuation funding for existing grantees and new funding for an additional cohort of grantees, for a total of $55 million in fiscal year 2020.

As part of its revamped school funding formula, New Mexico HB 5 included a per-pupil weight for districts that opt into an extended learning program. This program requires districts to add additional days to the school year, increase professional development hours and provide afterschool programming. The state’s department of public instruction estimated that up to $62.5 million would be distributed to districts enrolled in the extended learning program in school year 2019-2020.

Ohio HB 166 funded a new student wellness and success initiative, which includes a broad array of services for youth and families. Districts may use funds for any combination of the approved activities, including services to students before or after the school day and when school is not in session. Funds are distributed on a per-pupil basis calculated by poverty classification, with a $275 million expenditure in school year 2019-2020.

Oregon HB 3427 also funded a broad, formula-based initiative to schools, with activities ranging from increased instructional time to summer learning grants, with a total expenditure of $370 million.

Other Funding Mechanisms. Some states look beyond general revenue sources to fund afterschool programs. Under existing statute, Tennessee provides recurring funding to the Lottery for Education Afterschool Programs (LEAPs) from unclaimed prize money. The most recent data show that the afterschool account received $15.2 million in FY 2018. In South Carolina, a line item in HB 4000 allocated $1.5 million from lottery revenue to an afterschool pilot program. Missouri HB 11 transferred $3 million from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) fund for the purpose of afterschool and out-of-school support programs.

Federal Action

On the federal level, afterschool is funded by initiatives in the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The primary funding mechanisms are the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA) and the Child Care Development Block Grant program (CCDBG).

Funding Opportunities through ESSA. ESSA amended and reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that governs K-12 education. The 2018-2019 school year marked the first full year of ESSA implementation. The law was designed to maximize flexibility for states and localities to determine the best approach to offering an equitable, high-quality education to all students, including opportunities to provide before-school, afterschool and summer learning programs.

Title I of ESSA provides more than $15 billion to districts and schools serving a high percentage of children from low-income families. These formula-based grants are awarded to school districts and target students from low-income families who are failing or at risk of failing. Schools in which low-income children make up more than 40% of student enrollment or district demographics may use Title I funds for schoolwide programs serving all students. Afterschool programs can be incorporated into both targeted and schoolwide Title I programs.

Title IV, Part B authorizes 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLCs), a program that awards formula-based grants to states for afterschool and summer programs. State education agencies must administer a competitive subgrant process that emphasizes the priorities of school-day academic alignment, enrichment activities and family engagement. ESSA includes new points of emphasis for the program, such as school-community partnerships, experiential learning and staff professional development. Congress allocated $1.2 billion to 21st CCLC programs in FY 2019.

Afterschool Funding and CCDBG. The CCDBG program distributes formula-based grants to states to provide and improve child care services. Approximately 24% of all children served by CCDG are school-age children in center-based care, which includes many afterschool programs. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 doubled CCDBG funding from $2.9 billion to $5.8 billion for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, of which an estimated one-third is expended on subsidies for school-age children. The reauthorization also increased the required expenditures for quality activities from 4% to 9%; many states use these funds to develop school-age quality standards and rating systems.