Online Staff Report
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new assessment of states’ progress toward offering after school programs to all children who need them finds Illinois is making real progress, but has more work to do to fully meet the need.
Illinois was one of just nine states to earn a 4 on a scale of 1 to 5 in a recent report. No state received a 5; 20 states received a 3; 19 states a 2; and Delaware and Idaho received the lowest rating, a 1 in the 2011 State-by-State Afterschool Progress Reports and Consumer Guides, which are being released in conjunction with Lights On Afterschool this year by the Afterschool Alliance.
Sponsored by jcpenney, the new progress reports examine how each state is helping keep the lights on for kids and families after school by reviewing state policies, funding and other activities that affect after school programs, assessing the need in each state for these programs, offering tips to parents seeking after school programs for their children, and suggesting ways all state residents can support after school.
Specifically, each state progress report considers: the availability of and participation in after school programs, based on data from the landmark 2009 America After 3PM household survey; recent state policy activity and funding for after school programs; and state-level leadership on after school from policy makers. It also includes information for parents about how to find and support after school programs in each state. Links to state and national resources for finding programs are available, and parents and non-parents alike are directed to specific action steps they can take to support after school. The assessment finds the following:
• According to America After 3PM, 16 percent of school children in Illinois are in after school programs; 28 percent are on their own in the afternoons; and 44 percent would participate in an after school program if it were available.
• In terms of policy activity and funding, Illinois met five of five criteria, including current law that directly supports after school programs and current state funding for after school programming.
• In terms of after school leadership, Illinois met four of five criteria, including an active statewide after school network and a U.S. Senator in the Senate Afterschool Caucus. It failed to meet only one criterion because of the lack of a governor’s or state agency taskforce.
Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant said: “There is good news here and reason for hope, but it is also true that too many children in Illinois are unsupervised and at risk after the school day ends. Illinois is putting in place many pieces to make after school programs available to all children who need them, but there is more lawmakers can do. Even in tough economic times like these, we need to ensure that our children get the education and support they need to succeed in school and in life. After school programs are a good investment, providing opportunities for engaging, hands-on learning that often aren’t available during the regular school day. After school programs keep kids safe, inspire them to learn, and help working families — and we must make after school funding and support a high priority.”
A significant body of research demonstrates that students who attend after school programs regularly are more likely to improve their grades, tests scores and overall academic behavior. Nationwide, more than 15 million school-age children — more than one in four kids in the United States — are unsupervised after the school day ends. The parents of 18 million children say they would enroll their kids in after school programs — if programs were available.
The Afterschool Alliance is a nonprofit public awareness and advocacy organization working to ensure all children have access to quality after school programs. More information is available at www.afterschoolalliance.org.