OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Washington Legislature already has some marching orders, from the governor’s budget proposal to a bill by state School Superintendent Randy Dorn to raise sales taxes to fund education. A 2012 court ruling said the state must increase school funding and improve student outcomes – and advocates of after-school programs say they can help.
Lynne Tucker, education policy and advocacy director, School’s Out Washington, said research has proved that after-school and summer learning programs help kids who are falling behind academically, at a fraction of what it would cost to keep them in school longer.
“If we look at Expanded Learning Opportunities and summer learning programs as a tool and a strategy to closing the opportunity gap, it would be one of the more affordable and scalable options. And I think, given the times right now in Washington state, this would be one of our best options,” Tucker said.
Tucker pointed out that almost half of Washington’s public school students live in poverty, and said giving them safe after-school and summer options that keep them learning is critical to closing their achievement gap. At risk, she added, are kids whose families cannot afford specialized camps and private lessons, especially in the months between school years.
“By the time they get to ninth grade, two-thirds of the achievement gap is attributed to the cumulative, year-after-year impact from summer learning loss. So, it really sets them up for dropout, for not graduating – and down a different pathway,” she warned.
There aren’t enough of these programs around the state to serve all those who need them, however. Tucker said this session, after-school providers and children’s advocates will propose legislation to create what they’re calling an Expanded Learning Opportunities Council.
“They would talk about increasing access to Expanded Learning Opportunities, finding community-based organizations and working with them on quality programs and technical assistance, so they can create an opportunity in the community,” Tucker explained.
They are also working to implement quality standards for after-school and summer learning programs, she said, and to train more providers.
More information is at www.SchoolsOutWashington.org.