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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, what happened after school was seen as beyond the scope of concern for schools, except perhaps for the expectation that students should study and do homework.

Increasingly, communities have raised their after-school expectations for schools. These expectations aren't just driven by educational needs — families and communities need a safe, affordable alternative to unsupervised time for kids.

After-school programs (insiders refer to them as expanded learning or out of school time programs) benefit students, families, and communities. Research shows that these programs (especially career-technical programs) can improve students’ attendance, social-emotional development, and college readiness, as well as help to reduce the achievement gap.

School communities design their after-school offerings in very different ways, reflecting the influence and prioritization of local needs, local leadership, local partnerships, and of course, local funding. Should after-school programs serve as a continuation of the school day? (Sometimes.) Should they be the solution for how students get the space and web access they need to do their homework? (Sometimes.) Should they provide educational enrichment activities? (Sometimes.) Should they be centers of athletics, performing arts, and career awareness? (Sometimes.) Should they just be a safe, supervised place for kids to have fun and relax after the school day? (You get the picture.)

Perhaps most critically: who is supposed to pay for these opportunities? Because, as always, the golden rule applies: Whoever's got the gold makes the rules.

Federal, State and Local all chip in

Funding for after-school learning is complicated.

The State budget. In 2002, California voters passed an initiative (Proposition 49) to make funding of after-school programs a constitutional obligation. The measure passed with active support from Arnold Schwarzenegger, who at the time was a private citizen with political ambitions. Campaigning for this popular measure boosted Schwarzenegger's profile and led to his election as governor of the state in a recall election. If this seems like a digression, it is to make the point that after-school programs are not funded in a normal way in this state, and it took a lot of star power to make it happen in the first place. This strong beginning has had staying power. According to a 2020 ranking by the National Afterschool Alliance, California has stronger after-school programs in more schools than anywhere in America other than Washington, D.C.

The After School Education and Safety program (ASES) provides state funding to support local after-school programs for K-9 students throughout the state. The program chronically struggles to keep up with rising costs and maintain services for students.

The Federal budget. At about the same time Californians voted to create ASES, the federal government created the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program for grades K-12. Like ASES, this program awards money based on grant applications that emphasize support for lower-income communities. Both programs expect the schools 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. The California After School Network attempts to provide an overview of these overlapping services in its yearly report: State of the State of Expanded Learning. The best ongoing national summary is called America After 3PM.

Are after-school programs a good use of funds?

There is considerable evidence that after-school programs, like summer programs, can have a significant positive economic effect, particularly if they are well-run. RAND Corporation took on this question in an efficacy study of after-school programs. Suggestions for program design were documented in an enormous report titled “Hours of Opportunity.”

No single entity is responsible for providing out-of-school-time learning, so coordinating among programs can be a challenge. During the Pandemic, districts and nonprofits did their best, in cooperation with the California Afterschool Network (CAN).

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

Updated September 2018, October 2021, July 2022


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

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Questions & Comments

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user avatar
Carol Kocivar January 28, 2023 at 10:10 pm
Advocates for expanding learning are asking the Governor for additional support.
Existing afterschool programs, through the After School Education and Safety (ASES) and 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) programs, were left out of the Governor’s proposed 8.13% COLA for the Local Control Funding Formula, child care, and nearly all other educational categoricals.
Some ASES and 21st CCLC programs do not receive ELO-P funding and need more than $10.18 per student per day from the state in order to run quality programming and hire the workforce they need.
Research shows that a quality afterschool program costs between $14.40 and $40.95 per student per day (depending on the region) (1).
user avatar
Carol Kocivar August 3, 2022 at 9:20 pm
The 2022-23 state budget provides $3 billion to the Expanded Learning Opportunities Program, increasing the total on going investment to $4 billion. Schools will be required to offer expanded learning opportunities to all
low-income students, English language learners, and youth in foster care. Local educational agencies with the highest concentrations of these students will be required to offer expanded learning opportunities to all elementary students. The Budget continues to assume that full fiscal implementation of the program will take place by 2025-26.
user avatar
Carol Kocivar June 14, 2022 at 12:30 pm
Overview of Child Care and Expanded Learning Programs for School-Age Child. The California Legislative Analyst provides a detailed analysis comparing the two main programs. March 2022
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?
user avatar
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.
user avatar
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!
user avatar
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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