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Lynn senator advocates for more afterschool program funding

State Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) is advocating for more funds for afterschool programs

State Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) is advocating for more funds for afterschool programs aimed at closing the achievement gap for low-income students.

Crighton is Senate co-chair of the state legislature’s Afterschool and Out-of-School Time Coordinating Council, which recently released a report on the importance of afterschool learning and how to raise the revenue to give access to more families.

There’s a huge need for afterschool and summer learning, as a child spends 80 percent of their time outside of the schools, Crighton said. But as many as 8,000 low-income students eligible for the programs are on waiting lists because of lack space or funding.

“This is an economic mobility issue,” said Crighton. “The cost of childcare is very expensive. Too many parents have to choose between their work (or) professional career, and taking care of their kids after school.”

One solution outlined in the report was to use cannabis revenue to support afterschool and summer programming, which would go toward paying tuition and getting kids off the waiting list.

The report recommends that the state increase the Afterschool and Out-of-School Quality Grant funding to $5.5 million.

According to the report, there are 196,562 students statewide in afterschool programs, but 362,312 would enroll if they had the option. Providing more access would level the playing field for those students who are currently left behind because of lack of opportunity, the report shows.

“We’re proud Massachusetts is No. 1 in terms of education, but our achievement gap continues to grow and grow,” said Crighton. “It’s clear that afterschool programs and summer learning have a major effect on students’ academic performance. It’s an investment that will definitely pay off.”

Other recommendations include addressing programming gaps in the state’s rural areas, where transportation is often a challenge, and using federal dollars to increase access and quality in programming.

The report recommends the state invest in a quality workforce for afterschool and summer programs, which often struggle to provide adequate pay for the staff; leverage local partnerships among cities, schools and afterschool; and strengthen and align state oversight and policy development.

Crighton said the aim is to file legislation on afterschool and summer learning, based on the report’s recommendations, by the bill filing deadline of mid-January.

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