Gov. Mark Dayton has declared today “Lights On Afterschool Day” in Minnesota, to highlight the importance of after school programs in improving school performance and providing safe places for children.
Communities around the state and the nation are holding celebrations today to bring attention to the programs.
Supporters say children in “high-quality afterschool programs do better in school, attend school more frequently and with fewer behavior problems, and stay engaged during peak hours for juvenile crime. Additionally, afterschool programs help working parents by providing a safe place for youth to go at the end of the school day.”
Some programs may be at risk, though, as Congress negotiates reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind legislation.
Kari Denissen Cunnien, executive director of Ignite Afterschool nonprofit in Minneapolis said:
“It’s a time to celebrate afterschool in Minnesota, and also acknowledge that we still have important work to do. Funding for afterschool programs in Minnesota has decreased by one-third since 2008, and nearly 150,000 young people in Minnesota want to enroll in an afterschool program yet don’t have one available to them. We need to invest in afterschool programs that keep kids safe, help working families, inspire learning, and build skills that prepare young people for life beyond the classroom.”
Ignite Afterschool offers these statistics:
- 10.2 million young people nationwide participate in an after school program, yet 19.4 million of them would be enrolled in a program if one were available to them.
- After school programs keep young people safe and engaged in learning during the hours between 3 and 6 p.m. — the peak hours for juvenile crime and experimentation with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and sex
- In Minnesota, 82% of parents support public funding for after school programs. At the same time, 25% of Minnesota’s young people are unsupervised after school an average of eight hours per week.
- In Minnesota, total funds available for after school programs have dropped by 1/3 since 2008.