California is pumping more than $4 billion into before-, after-, and summer school learning programs.
The “expanded learning opportunities” funding, first announced in 2021, is intended to help every public school district offer additional hours of care and activities for every student in grades TK-6 by the time school starts in fall 2025.
“It’s a real validation of the kind of work we’ve been doing for so long,” said Julee Brooks, CEO of Woodcraft Rangers, which provides after-school programs on more than 100 Los Angeles-area school campuses. “It’s also a recognition of how much student need has changed.”
After-school programs have long provided safety, food, and fun for kids while their parents work, but now programs are also filling gaps in access to the arts and mental health care. Many public districts see after-school programs as a key part of their pandemic learning recovery plan, but it’s unclear how much they may improve students’ academic skills.
The money comes at a time when there’s a nationwide after-school educator workforce shortage. More than two-thirds of providers told the Afterschool Alliance last fall that it’s been difficult to hire and retain staff last year. Other programs are fully staffed, but are still enrolling fewer students than before the pandemic.