There are roughly 126,622 children left unsupervised after school in Kentucky (Afterschool Alliance, 2019). During this time, children may be tempted to participate in risky behaviors such as crime and failure to continue school work. When students are provided with a beneficial structured program they are more likely to succeed. After school programs have become a common ritual in many young students’ lives with different variations to cater to a diverse array of students. After school programs help provide educational assistance and enriching activities to the youth of Kentucky and the nation. The demand for after school programs is high, but funding is limited from state to state. Kentucky has allocated $17,906,795 for those enrolled in after school programs yet that does not provide funding for every child in the state (21st Century Community Learning Centers, 2019). Funding is needed for these programs to support the youth of Kentucky.
The Impact of Afterschool Programs In Kentucky
After school programs have been a recent addition to accompany education. Whether it is after school tutoring, mentoring, or a sports activity, many of today’s youth can say they have participated in a program of some sort. These programs give youth an outlet in the community to seek when they need educational assistance, mentoring from peers and adults, or just simply an enriching activity. Not only do after school programs give kids an outlet, but it also keeps at-risk teens and other children out of trouble. Since 2000, juvenile arrests have decreased around 70% in correspondence to the availability of after school programs (Afterschool Alliance, 2019). After school programs also give parents a sense of security knowing that their children are safe and occupied. These programs have such a large impact on communities across Kentucky, yet there is not enough funding for many kids. With 104,693 children awaiting an afterschool program, funding is detrimental (Afterschool Alliance, 2019). Kentucky’s allocated $17,906,795 does cover the extra 86,786 children that go without free after school programs. More funding needs to be allocated to support the youth of Kentucky.
The Outcome of Afterschool Programs
Funding for afterschool programs will provide thousands of children the opportunities to participate. Kids can discover and explore new interests, topics, and activities along with communication and teamwork skills. According to a study of after school programs conducted by Deborah Vandell, Elizabeth Reisner, & Kim Pierce, high quality expanded learning opportunities are linked to gains in social skills with peers, increased pro-social behavior, and reductions in aggression, misconduct (e.g., skipping school, getting into fights), and illegal substance use (2007).
Vandell et al. also state how students who regularly attend after school programs showed significant increases in test scores compared to those who were left unsupervised after school (2007). The projected outcomes of afterschool programs are improved life skills, relationships, and academic engagement.
As stated previously, there are 104,693 children awaiting afterschool programs. These children will have to pay the fees associated with many after school programs. However, with increased funding for the program, through taxation, many kids could attend the after school programs they need without being held back by a daunting price. By increasing the Kentucky State cigarette tax by $0.40, there could be enough funding for every child to attend a program at zero cost. During the fiscal year of 2019, 321.1 million packs of cigarettes were sold in Kentucky (Cross, 2019). Cigarettes are currently taxed at $1.10 in Kentucky, adding the $0.40 tax would bring the total tax to $1.50 (Truth Initiative, 2018). The cost of afterschool programs totals up to be $1,000 per child, requiring $104,693,000 for funding (Afterschool Alliance, 2019). With an added $0.40 tax increase for 321.1 million packs of cigarettes, there would be $128,440,000 to go towards the funding of afterschool programs, meaning that every kid enrolled could attend a free after school program.
Yet some readers may challenge my proposal insisting that a forty cent tax increase would cut cigarette sales. The concern over a decrease in cigarette sales is grounded in truth. After the $0.50 tax increase on cigarettes in 2018, sales went down around 10% (Cross, 2019). Anticipating yet another 10% decrease in sales, 285.1 million packs may be sold in one year, still providing $114,040,000 to go towards after school programs. Cross then goes on to state how after the 2018 tax increase, many smokers in Kentucky smoked less and considered quitting (2019). If anything, the decrease in sales could help Kentucky cut down on its tobacco use. However, given the addictive nature of nicotine, many smokers will continue buying cigarettes therefore funding after school programs. Cigarette taxes can overall increase the general health of Kentuckians and fund programs. Even if cigarette sales decrease, after school programs still receive funding, one way or another.
My proposal would allow children to attend after school programs at zero cost, creating a positive impact on Kentucky’s communities. This proposal would resolve the problem of juvenile crime, unsafe environments, academic success, and psychosocial outcomes. Moreover, it would show Kentucky’s dedication to its youth in the school system.
Many after school programs tend to run for a few hours after school is dismissed. The after school hours happen to be the most statistically common time for juvenile crime in the United States. As the graph states, 2-6pm is peak juvenile crime hours (Council for A Strong America, 2019). If kids are not occupied by enriching programs they may become more susceptible to engage in criminal activities in their communities. The youth of Kentucky tend to be unsupervised directly after school while their parents are occupied at work. Around 80% of Kentucky parents say that afterschool programs give them peace of mind while they are at work and 70% say that programs keep their kids out of trouble (Afterschool Alliance, 2019). These high-quality programs are harder to find in the areas that need them the most due to a lack of funding. With funding to programs, kids in Kentucky could attend programs, free of cost, to keep them safe and give their parents a sense of security.
With an opioid epidemic on the rise, especially in Kentucky, safe environments can be limited. Children may feel unsafe at home and therefore unable to work or focus on their school work without assistance. The Boys and Girls Club of Harlan County, Ky has developed an afterschool program focusing on education, preventing, and supporting children who are affected by the opioid crisis (Afterschool Alliance, 2019). With many different variations of afterschool programs, they can be centered around a community or persons specific needs. The importance of programs like these are immeasurable in kids’ lives. By providing these services to the youth of Harlan County, they have created a safer environment and built trust between the community and police officers. Without this program many kids in Harlan County would be left feeling vulnerable in an unsafe environment at home. Let Harlan County be an example of the positive impact after-school programs have on the youth of Kentucky and how they create safe environments for kids.
Students who spend time in afterschool programs typically have better success in the classroom. Amy Magin Wong (2008) states how
Participation in afterschool programs is influencing academic performance in a number of ways, including better attitudes toward school and higher educational aspirations; higher school attendance rates and lower tardiness rates; less disciplinary action, such as suspension; lower dropout rates; better performance in school, as measured by achievement test scores and grades; significant gains in academic achievement test scores; greater on-time promotion; improved homework completion; and deeper engagement in learning.
These programs help enforce better education related habits as well as helping students learn, understand, and become interested in new topics. Kids are able to practice topics learned in class with one-on-one experiential learning from teachers, at their own pace and learning style. After school programs can be centered around a child’s specific needs typically offering a successful experience for the student. Funding programs that promote academic development in youth deserve to be funded by Kentucky.
After school programs can introduce children to new people and build relationships, developing a child’s social interaction. High-quality afterschool programs should not only focus on the academic success of a child but their social development success too. “In a quality program, the emphasis is placed on nurturing good character, such as respect and open-mindedness” (Smith 2017). When children develop new social interactions, as listed in the quote, they interact smoothly with their peers and mentors. In a survey of over 600 teachers, nearly all believed that social and emotional learning is an important part of children’s learning experience (Afterschool Alliance, 2018). Students can build strong relationships with their teachers during after school programs encouraging them to learn and feel safe. Afterschool Alliance (2018) also states that when programs are able to align social and emotional learning with their mission and intentionally design activities to grow students’ social and emotional skills and competencies, this explicit focus supports the implementation and sustainability of social and emotional learning within the program.
After school programs help develop children’s social behavior and interactions. Without funding, some children’s developmental success may delay.
After school programs have proven themselves as a viable aspect of education. Children need after school programs to stay out of trouble such as low attendance, tardiness, and crime (Wong, 2008). When children are engaged in after school programs they are more likely to succeed in the areas discussed. If children are excited about learning they’re more likely to succeed in their future (Afterschool Alliance, 2018). Overall, there are more positive effects on children who attend after school programs than those who do not.
Based on all of my points, I believe that Kentucky and its youth will benefit tremendously from increased funding to after school programs. This proposal would be extremely beneficial to low-income families who cannot afford the regular costs associated with these programs. When after school programs are used to their full potential, everyone benefits. If my proposal was enacted, Kentucky could show how much they care about the well being of children across the state. Although cigarette sales may go down, the youth of Kentucky would still benefit from the funding.