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Lesson 4.7

After School:
What Should Happen After School?

When school lets out, does learning stop?

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It’s 3:00 in the afternoon on a typical weekday. School is out. Where do kids go next and what do they do?

In years now long past, moms stayed home. Kids would play or do their homework under her watchful eye. That's no longer the structure of the American family and workforce.

Increasingly, schools have involved themselves in providing after-school programs. This isn't entirely driven by educational needs: families and communities need a safe alternative to unsupervised time for kids. How should these programs be used? Should they be a continuation of the school day? Should they be the solution for how students get the web access they need to do their homework? Should they provide educational enrichment activities? Should they be centers of athletics, performing arts and career awareness? Or should they just be a safe place for kids to have fun and relax after the school day?

Perhaps most critically: who is supposed to pay for these opportunities?

Federal, State and Local all chip in

The answer is everyone and no one. In 2002, California voters passed Proposition 49, which set up constitutionally protected state funding for daily after-school programs for students from kindergarten to 9th grade. It’s called the After School Education and Safety (ASES) program. Increases in the minimum wage and other operating expenses have proved a challenge for ASES programs, which now struggle to maintain services for students.

The federal government, at about the same time, created the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program for grades K-12. Both programs award money based on grant applications that emphasize support for lower-income communities. And both expect the programs they fund to provide a combination of educational and enrichment activities.

Meanwhile, local communities, non-profit organizations and businesses also provide after-school and summer programs, usually for a fee. In 2015 the California After School Network attempted to provide an overview of these overlapping services in its report State of the State of Expanded Learning. (This report extended the findings of its influential report, America After 3PM.

No one entity is responsible for providing out-of-school-time learning. Should this mish-mash of solutions be somehow combined? On one hand, taxpayer money should be spent in ways that advance the public interest, for example by serving academic goals. On the other hand, when after-school programs are voluntary they need to be positive experiences for kids. The "right balance" depends on the needs of the community and the resources available. Both the state and federal programs include application requirements that promote collaboration - they want to see school agencies, other public entities, and community-based organizations working together to create programs.

Community partnerships are shaping how out-of-school time is used

In an increasing number of communities nationally, and in California, these types of community partnerships are shaping how out-of-school time is used. The Coalition for Community Schools documents how community schools work and spotlights some inspiring stories. Program evaluation is a requirement of the ASES grants. In 2012 an independent evaluation attempted to summarize what was known about their quality, but the variety of programs and inconsistency of the data left the researchers with few firm conclusions.

There is considerable evidence that after-school and summer programs can have a significant positive economic effect, if they are run well. RAND corporation conducted an efficacy study of after-school programs and identified suggestions for program design in an enormous report titled “Hours of Opportunity.” If you are evaluating your school's after-school options, you also might want to look at After School Programs in the 21st Century: Their Potential and What it Takes to Achieve It from Priscilla M.D. Little of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

The next lesson turns to the question of whether it matters when kids miss school.

Updated September 2018


Which ONE of the following is SOLELY responsible for providing educational programs outside of school hours?

Answer the question correctly and earn a ticket.
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Questions & Comments

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user avatar Madrigal July 2, 2020 at 9:33 am
How will children in low income areas be able to keep up with A.I. and NanoTech?
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Susannah Baxendale January 17, 2019 at 1:02 pm
An issue which I think ties in is the quantity of homework required of students and the nature of that homework. Some assignments require internet access which not all children have even at home much less at an afterschool site (necessarily). Some assignments even for K students require parental help or resources (remember looking through magazines to find pictures with a subject of color? how many household have magazines floating around these days?). This is separate from the question of how much homework for each age and grade, and whether teachers 'obey' the rules (many in effect claim the whole amount for their subject) which can make for students spending hours and hours on homework (and not considering those who don't manage homework perfectly). Although I remember having homework in the 60s, I also remember huge amounts of time for play and reading which was harder for our children to come by in the early 2000s.
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Brenda Etterbeek June 29, 2019 at 1:46 pm
Yes! So much homework and my children are in elementary school! I must admit, I'm concerned about middle school and high school home work loads and if it is even necessary. I can see having homework for assignments not finished in school, but just for busy work....our children need time to be a kid!
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Carol Kocivar June 27, 2018 at 4:24 pm
Families Can Expect to Pay 20 Percent of Income on Summer Child Care

The Center for American Progress analyzed data from the Afterschool Alliance’s America After 3PM survey. This analysis estimates that the average family will spend more than $3,000 on summer programs for two children, representing 20 percent of a typical family’s income for the entire summer.
user avatar
Carol Kocivar October 27, 2016 at 4:17 pm

A good read on changing needs:
"Most Parents Work 9 to 5. Why Do Most Schools Still End Around 3?"
user avatar
Carol Kocivar April 16, 2016 at 12:28 pm
A Feb. 2016 survey by the Partnership for Children and Youth finds that flat funding and increased costs are having a negative impact on providers of after school programs.
California’s After School Education and Safety (ASES) program supports over 4,000 elementary and middle schools serving more than 400,000 students daily.
" While the costs, demands, and expectations of ASES programs have consistently increased, the funding has remained stagnant for a decade." The report found that "nearly 30% of ASES-funded respondents reported that they are very likely to close their programs without an increase to the ASES daily rate in the next two years."
Find out more...
user avatar
Carol Kocivar - Ed100 October 25, 2014 at 2:13 pm
A report from America After 3PM now gives high marks to California for participation in after school programs but notes there is still more that must be done.
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