Every afternoon in the United States, millions of children leave school with no organized activity or adult supervision awaiting them. Not surprisingly, the afternoon hours are when children are most likely to be the victims of crime and to engage in risky behaviors.

After-school programs provide a safe alternative. And that’s one of many reasons we need quality after-school programs — and many more than we have now. The parents of 18.5 million children would enroll their kids in after-school programs — if programs were available. Unfortunately, the economy has made it harder for after-school programs to raise private funds, and local, state and federal budget cuts are forcing many programs to cut back their programs or close their doors.

The after-school Alliance’s Uncertain Times survey of after-school programs across the country revealed that programs are struggling to keep their doors open. According to the survey, nearly 39 percent of after-school programs report that their budgets are in worse shape today than at the height of the recession, and more than 62 percent report that their funding is down “a little or a lot” from three years ago.

I recently joined hundreds of after-school supporters from around the nation in meeting with, phoning and emailing our members of Congress and their aides to discuss the urgent need to fund after-school programs, as part of the after-school Alliance’s after-school for All Challenge. We’ll all be better off if lawmakers heed that message.

Laura Brock, director

21st Century Learning Grant

Youth Matter!

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