The Case for Out-of-School Time Funding in Colorado

Written by: Children's Campaign
Date Posted: February 21, 2024

By Madeleine Ashour

Afterschool and out-of-school programs offer more than just academic enrichment: For many participants, they are pivotal in promoting social, emotional, and academic development. But just 10% of the K-12 population in Colorado has access to such programs – and existing programs face an uncertain future as pandemic-era investments expire.

The Colorado Children’s Campaign is working with partners at the Boys & Girls Club of America and others to explore what it would take for Colorado to make a sustainable, long-term investment in these programs that are so critical for kids and families.

You can hear more about this work in our recent podcast:

A large body of research demonstrates that high-quality, comprehensive, accessible out-of-school time programs have significant impacts on learners. According to the Afterschool Alliance, these include:

  • Improving Academic Achievement: Participants in Colorado’s 21st Century Learning Centers have shown remarkable improvements in statewide assessment scores, GPA, attendance, and school engagement. Other research shows that participating in out-of-school time programs can help close gaps in academic achievement between lower- and higher-income students.
  • Promoting Physical and Mental Health: Amid rising concerns over mental health and substance use among youth, afterschool programs offer crucial support services and activities to foster well-being.
  • Reducing Risky Behaviors: The hours of 3 pm to 6 pm are when crime rates among young people spike. Afterschool programs provide a safe haven, reducing the likelihood of youth engaging in risky behaviors.
  • Supporting Working Families: For many families, particularly those with lower incomes or with a single parent, afterschool programs offer an essential service that enables parents to maintain their employment while knowing their children are in a safe and productive environment outside of school hours.

But for every one learner in an out-of-school time program, there are five on a waitlist, which means that 398,000 families are unable to access out-of-school time programs. The situation is likely to get worse before it gets better: In June, COVID relief dollars that supported out-of-school time programs are set to expire. Through the American Rescue Plan Act, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Act, Colorado invested about $20 million in relief dollars in out-of-school time programming from March 2020 through March 2023, which supported 45 grantees and 60 programs across the state. Without sustained state support, these programs may need to shrink or shut their doors.

The federal government also supports out-of-school time programming through 21st Century Learning Center grants. But this source is also chronically underfunded. Historically, demand for this funding is so great in Colorado that only out every 10 applications canbe funded.

At the state level, the Tony Grampsas Youth Services Program is a Colorado state fund held within the Department of Human Services that distributes grants to youth-focused prevention programs. During the 2024-2026 3-year grant cycle, 226 organizations in sought approximately $36.1M in funding, but only $10.4M was available.

Afterschool and other out-of-school time programs can help Colorado’s youth and their families thrive – and the supply is not meeting the demand. Other states have acknowledged the importance of before- and after-school programming: Michigan, for instance, recently introduced a $50 million grant program.

A state-level investment in Colorado’s out-of-school and afterschool programming is an investment in our state’s future. By providing our youth with safe, enriching, and supportive environments during their out-of-school hours, we can help them reach their full potential and contribute positively to our communities.

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About Children's Campaign

The Colorado Children’s Campaign is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization committed since 1985 to realizing every chance for every child in Colorado. We advocate for the development and implementation of data-driven public policies that improve child wellbeing in health, education and early childhood. We do this by providing Coloradans with trusted data and research on child wellbeing and organizing an extensive state-wide network of dedicated child advocates. For more information, please visit www.coloradokids.org.