Youth Agencies Clamor to Stay After School

Patrick Boyle
July 1, 1998

What this country needs, President Clinton declared in a Rose Garden ceremony last month, is more after-school programs and a billion dollars from Congress to make them grow. But for the after-school program here at the John Adams Middle School, survival is a bit more simple: keep the janitors happy.

The janitors get about $25 an hour to keep John Adams open after class. That's more than the site directors make at most youth-serving agencies, and it could have killed plans by L.A. Bridges to start an after-school program last fall. But the principal kicked in money from the school budget, demonstrating rare cooperation between a school and a community-based organization (CBO) to create an after-school program.

Such cooperation will have to become the norm if after-school programs are to spread as the president and youth advocates say they must. For youth-serving agencies that want to run after-school programs, no time is better than now to team up with schools if the schools let them.

When the president announced $40 million in grants for after-school programs during that Rose Garden ceremony, every penny went to public schools. And while Clinton, Congress, the Mott Foundation, and George Soros's Open Society Institute have in recent months proposed spending over $1 billion more for after-school programs, almost all of that money would go to schools.

"If all the money goes to schools," says Gordon Raley, executive director of the National Collaboration for Youth, "will there really be partnerships with youth-serving agencies? Or will those agencies be subcontractors at best, with little say in how the programs are run?"

"For years CBOs have been trying to get into schools. It hasn't been easy," says Michelle Seligson, executive director of the National Institute on Out-of-School Time. She sees increased after-school funding as "an opportunity" for CBOs to change that history.

"I think there's a win-win situation that can be crafted here" for CBOs and schools, says Jane Quinn, program director for the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund, which has spent $6.5 million since 1993 to develop after-school programs.

Indeed, from the marble halls of Congress to the linoleum floors of schools across the country, youth-serving agencies are taking the initiative to design and run school-based after-school programs, and to get a slice of the growing funds. In Washington, the youth agencies are up against the powerful education lobby in the fight for money. But out on the front lines, where service delivery counts more than clout in the Democratic Party, youth agencies are gradually making inroads.

"Youth organizations ought to be going out and doing their homework, seeking potential relationships with schools," said Martin Blank, director of the Institute for Educational Excellence, based in Washington, D.C.

"None of us can work in isolation any longer," said Saundra Bryant, who's All-People's Christian Center runs the after-school program at John Adams. [See story, page 23.]

Why Schools?

No one to the left of Gary Bauer's far right Family Research Council seems to argue the need for more after-school programs. Between five and seven million children come home from school each day to empty houses, according to "Safe and Smart: Making the After-School Hours Work for Kids," released last month by the U.S. departments of Education and Justice. The juvenile crime rate triples in the first full hour after school (3-4 p.m.), according to Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, based in Washington, D.C. The late afternoon hours also see a dramatic rise in juvenile drug and alcohol use, and sexual activity.

On the flip side, several studies have shown that quality after-school programs reduce adolescent crime and risky behavior, and improve academic performance and social skills. A recent Columbia University study found that the juvenile arrest rate at New York City housing projects with on-site Boys & Girls Clubs was 13 percent lower than similar projects without clubs.

"It is essential that we give our children something positive to do and provide them with adult supervision after school," First Lady Hillary Clinton said at the White House ceremony.

Schools have long been seen as the natural place. When large numbers of women went to work during World War II, explain authors Edward F. Zigler and Edmund W. Gordon in "Day Care Scientific and Social Policy Issues," teachers "were discovering that youngsters often came to school with house keys tied to their necks so that they could let themselves into an empty house after school." Many communities, including Detroit and Dallas, opened after-school centers at the schools. The buildings were already there, and the kids were already in them.

But school-based programs waned after World War II; interest didn't pick up again until the 1970s, as the rise in working mothers and single parents produced a rise in latchkey kids. Yet schools have been reticent about keeping their doors open after class: according to the Mott Foundation, only 30 percent of the nation's public elementary and middle schools offer after-school programs. Eighty percent of parents say they want their child to attend after-school programs.

Many school administrators have long seen after-school programs as babysitting services for which they have no time, no money, and no interest. Many youth-serving agencies, on the other hand, are "uniquely qualified" to run after-school programs, says Mott Foundation program officer Marianne Kugler. But they usually don't have the facilities. So why not let the agencies run programs in the schools?

"It is such a perfect match," Seligson says.

Except for practical, political and psychological barriers that can make it a mismatch. "There's no doubt about the degree of turf that is there" when a CBO wants to run a program in a school, Blank says. School officials, he says, raise "questions about the quality of the [after-school] staff and who might be in there. Principals are responsible for what goes on in the building." Youth agencies, on the other hand, don't want school administrators dictating how to run youth development programs.

Youth development? If these programs are run in schools, shouldn't they be academic? That is the philosophical chasm that separates CBOs and public schools — a chasm that must be bridged if they are going to work together on after-school programs.

Raison d’Être

School officials often see after-school programs in their buildings as opportunities to give kids more schooling. They tend to want academic-based activities, and look for a rise in school performance to show that the programs work.

"There's a strong tendency to feel that that should be the primary measure," coalition to bring educators and CBO administrators together on the after-school issue. "There is such enormous pressure on them [school officials] to do academics, academics, academics."

Youth-serving organizations, on the other hand, see after-school programs as opportunities to teach other skills, such as self-confidence, conflict resolution, decision-making and social responsibility. They want to educate kids about smoking, drugs, sex, violence and other risks. "The reason we want after-school care isn't because we're worried about math and reading scores," Raley says. "We're going to be searching for other outcomes. It's an opportunity for youth development."

Because they're often looking for different outcomes, schools and CBOs typically want different types of after-school programs. In Texas, the Alliance Schools Program has helped 150 schools set up after-school programs that focus on academics, with the teachers usually running the sessions. The teachers use the after-school hours to try new methods of instruction that they don't have time for during the regular school day, says Carrie Laughlin, a research staffer with the southwest region of the Industrial Areas Foundation, which oversees the project.

The nation's largest child care provider — the YMCA — includes tutoring and homework sessions in its school-based after-school programs, but local Y's "are not going to give up the recreational time," says Barbra Taylor, the YMCA's assistant director of child care and family programs. Out of the 8,000 school-aged child care programs run by the YMCA, 6,800 are based in schools.

The debate goes beyond whether to have the kids practice division or jump shots. There's a cultural gap between schools and CBOs that affects the entire mood of an after-school program. Linda Sission, executive director of the Boston-based National School-Age Child Care Alliance, says her agency visited North Carolina school-based programs and found principals making the kids walk in straight lines in the halls and be quiet in the classrooms. NSACA officials told one principal that a successful after-school program must be less regimented than the classroom. Loosen up, they said, or risk not getting NSACA accreditation. "He said, 'All right, you don't have to have them line up anymore,'" Sission says.

It's a common problem; even when CBOs ostensibly run the programs, Sission says, "the school days norms are being imposed after school."

"We have to have an arrangement so that it [the after-school program] is not just extending the school day," Raley says.

Money Means Control

The fear is that that's what will happen as schools get more money to develop after-school programs. The $40 million in grants that Clinton announced came via the Department of Education's 21st Century Community Learning Center (CLC) program, which is designed to give all of its money to schools for after-school projects. The president has asked Congress to expand the program by $200 million a year for five years. Clinton's plan says 10 percent of the money would go directly to CBOs. The word on Capitol Hill is that under pressure from the education lobby, the set-aside will disappear if the appropriation passes. "Not as far as we're concerned," says Jennifer Klein, special assistant to the president on domestic policy.

For CBOs, it's a case of trying to catch nickels in a hailstorm of money. Several after-school proposals from Capitol Hill would funnel hundreds of millions more into after-school care; it's unclear how much, if any, would go directly to CBOs. A recent Senate budget resolution approved $800 million more for Child Care and Development Block Grants. Sen. Barbara Boxer's (D-Calif.) After School Education and Safety Act, which would give the DOE another $50 million for schools, was defeated last month, but Boxer vows to try again this year. Sen. Edward Kennedy's (D-Mass.) America After School Act would dole out $7.25 billion over five years on a variety of programs, including expanding the CLC. Clinton's $21 billion child care proposal includes funds for after-school care.

The schools say they'll share the pot. Most of the 98 schools that won the CLC grants last month did so with programs that include CBO partners, says DOE spokesman David Thomas. But CBOs' history of second-class treatment by schools leaves them wary. "There have been a lot of bad experiences," admits Cindy Brown, director of the Resource Center on Educational Equity for the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Youth-serving agencies that get space in schools often find themselves treated like "poor tenants," Raley says. They often must pay fees for use of the school. They get shuffled around or kicked out because a room or building is being used for something else, or shut for vacation. In Seattle, 14 of the YMCA's 43 school-based programs have to find alternative venues this summer. Every year "we go out on a hunt," says Deborah Duitch, child care and day camp director for the YMCA in Seattle.

Even if the CBOs become partners with schools, "the question is who controls the money," Seligson says. It's usually the schools; they pick which youth agencies to work with, and they significantly shape the programs.

Making it Work

Ideally, after-care advocates say, a good program includes both academics and youth development. Indeed, many CBO and school administrators recognize that there is a cross-training aspect to their approaches. Taylor points out that a recreational activity "may seem like a game that has no academic focus for the children, but it helps them with problem-solving." After-school advocates such as Raley point to studies showing that youths who improve their self-confidence, social skills and problem-solving skills and who steer clear of drugs, gangs and violence do better in school.

"Those extended learning opportunities do not have to be a continuation of the same kind of learning opportunities within the school, and they don't have to be carried out by teachers," says Brown of the school officers' council.

In Texas, for instance, one of the schools in the Alliance program uses soccer games to bring classroom geometry lessons to life. Another has the kids run a make-believe town, where the mayor, banker, and baker have to put their math, reading and writing lessons into practice. At the Dunbar Middle School in Baltimore, a YMCA program includes one hour of academics and two hours of recreation every day.

The YMCA and L.A. Bridges programs follow a seemingly successful formula: the youth agency runs the after-school sessions, but agency staffers coordinate with teachers so that many of the kids' activities build on their schoolwork. "Our message back to the school is that we're looking at [helping to develop] a well-rounded child, and academic performance is just part of it," Taylor says.

But how can that development be measured? Math scores? School attendance? Disciplinary actions? Social skills? "There's a great deal of tension" between schools and CBO's on this issue, Blank says. "School people have to be careful not to judge everything by academic achievement." And youth development agencies need to run programs that "strengthen what goes on inside the classroom."

The good news is that cooperation and expansion are going on with or without Washington's help. In January the Mott Foundation pledged $55 million over the next five years to provide technical assistance, training and evaluation of the CLCs. The Open Society Institute has pledged $25 million over five years for after-school programs in New York, as long as others are willing to chip in. The first grants were announced last month, and they did just what CBOs want: $6.4 million went to 17 CBOs that will set up programs with New York City schools. The board of education contributed $4 million of the total. The DeWitt Wallace Making the Most of Out-of-School-Time (MOST) program has helped forge after-school partnerships between CBOs and schools in Boston, Chicago and Seattle.

Smaller efforts are sprouting up across the country. At Allegheny Dwellings in Pittsburgh, several city agencies and the Pittsburgh Foundation provide funding for the Year Round Children's Program, which is staffed largely by residents of the public housing project. The Beacon Schools, started in New York City seven years ago, are spreading to San Francisco, Denver, and Savannah, Ga. In Indianapolis, the Boy Scouts recently won a $107,250 grant from the Lilly Endowment to run Scout units in elementary classrooms after school.

The need, however, is bigger than the foundation and government pockets. For every CLC grant awarded last month, the president told his Rose Garden visitors, 20 applicants were told no. Some of the federal after-school proposals count on money from tobacco legislation, which at best will be far smaller than proponents once dreamed.

So while resources are coming for after-school care, the adults will still have to share. "The public and private sectors need to work together," Quinn says. "The schools and nonprofits need to work together, so that we don't blow this chance.”

Resources

Charles Stewart Mott Foundation

1200 Mott Foundation Bldg.

Flint, MI 48502-1851

(810) 238-5651

Fax: (810) 766-1791

Council of Chief State School Officers

One Massachusetts Ave., NW, Ste. 700

Washington, DC 20001-1431

(202) 336-7000

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids

1334 G St. NW, Ste. B

Washington, DC 10005-3107

(202) 638-0690

Fax: (202) 638-0673

Institute for Educational Leadership

1001 Connecticut Ave., NW

Washington, DC 20036

(202) 822-8405

National Collaboration for Youth

1319 F St., NW

Washington, DC 20004

(202) 347-2080

Fax: (202) 393-4517

National Institute on Out-of-School Time

Wellesley College Center for Research on Women

Wellesley, MA 02181

(781) 283-2547

Fax: (781) 283-3657

National School-Age Child Care Alliance

1137 Washington St.

Boston, MA 02142

(617) 298-5012

Fax: (617) 298-5022

E-mail: staff@nsaca.org

YMCA of the USA

Public Policy

1701 K St., NW, Ste. 903

Washington, DC 20006

(202) 835-9043

Fax: (202) 835-9030

Saundra Bryant

Executive Director

All-People’s Christian Center

822 E. 20th St.

Los Angeles, CA 90011

(213) 747-6357

Fax: (213) 747-0541

E-mail: Isaiah567@aol.com

Alan Scher

L.A. Bridges Site Coordinator

John Adams Middle School

151 W. 30th St.

Los Angeles, CA 90007

(213) 744-1502

PlusTime NH

160 Dower Rd., Ste. 1

Chichester, NH 03234

(603) 432-5851

Fax: (603) 798-5861

E-mail: plustime@nh.ultranet.com

Sidebar:

Youth Agencies Clamor to Stay After School: Teachers Balk at Extended Day


Boyle, Patrick and Jill Wolfson. "Youth Agencies Clamor to Stay After School." Youth Today, July/August 1998, p. 1.

©2000 Youth Today. Reprinted with permission from Youth Today. All rights reserved.

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