How Afterschool Alliance focuses on improving educational activities

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Erik Peterson and Jillian Luchner of Afterschool Alliance present their work to FiscalNote employees during a Lunch and Learn.

Erik Peterson and Jillian Luchner of Afterschool Alliance present their work to FiscalNote employees during a Lunch and Learn.

At FiscalNote, we are lucky to have some pretty awesome customers. Once a month, our Customer Success Team host a client in our office for a Lunch and Learn, where we gather as a company to eat lunch and listen to the client discuss what they do, and how they use FiscalNote to do it. For our third installment, we welcomed Erik Peterson and Jillian Luchner from Afterschool Alliance to our D.C. office. Their passion for their work was contagious, and our group listened intently as we enjoyed kabobs.

Afterschool Alliance was founded in 2000 to raise awareness for afterschool programs. Federal funding for afterschool programs had been allotted by the Clinton administration, and there was a need for advocacy to make sure these programs really took root. Since then, Afterschool Alliance’s focus has been almost entirely on policy research, with a secondary focus on advocacy on the Hill, as legislation is an essential source of funding for afterschool programs.

Erik says the importance of afterschool programs cannot be overstated.

“Kids who spend at least 30 days per year in these programs see an increase in on-time grade level promotion and attendance, which has a direct correlation to graduation rates,” he said.

As part of the program, students are prohibited from attending after school activities if they do not arrive to school on time. For many students this is a motivating factor in attendance, due to their enjoyment of the activity, the friendships they have made, and the presence of caring adults. These students are also less likely to become sick or obese due to the regular meals and physical activity the programs provide.

The upcoming Lights on Afterschool event on Oct. 22, 2015, will celebrate afterschool programs nationwide.

The upcoming Lights on Afterschool event on Oct. 22, 2015, will celebrate afterschool programs nationwide.

Afterschool programs are incredibly diverse, with their range of activities only limited by creativity and budget. STEM education, tutoring, and physical activities such as yoga and crossfit for children have really found a home after school. They also focus on emotional and social learning, which kids may learn through mentors and activities such as chess. One local D.C. program offers a film critic school, and tutoring and mentoring from American University students.

Afterschool programs are most successful, Erik stresses, when the programs are built around the wants and needs of the students and the community partners with the school to make the program work.

The biggest obstacle for Afterschool Alliance is finding funding for these programs. Only 18 states have state level funding for afterschool programs. California is the highest at approximately $500 million, while most have none.

Even with 50 statewide networks, thousands of partners, and 100 local ambassadors, Afterschool Alliance cannot keep up with the demand for afterschool programs.

“The number one barrier to get into an afterschool program is cost and lack of availability… for every one student in an afterschool program, two are waiting to get in,” Erik states, citing information from Afterschool Alliance’s latest study, America After 3PM.

The diversity of the programs and differences in funding from state to state make this difficult to tackle. But since they started using the FiscalNote platform, Afterschool Alliance has been able to begin focusing on advocacy and research on the state level.

“It’s had a pretty significant impact on how we work and what we do,” Erik said. “We are hoping to grow and become more active on the state level and see where the opportunities are – and FiscalNote has really helped us with that.”

Afterschool Alliance has used our platform to track a number of issues at the state level, such as education, child care, STEM, school food and nutrition, and summer learning. They can also determine which legislators might help solve some of their issues, and can see what legislation has been successful in other states so they can best advocate in new areas.

“Overall, success for us means increasing both the number of young people who have access to quality programs and the funding resources available to support those programs,” Erik said.

Other Lunch and Learn guests at FiscalNote have included John Bailey from Foundation for Excellence in Education, and Professor Livermore from UVA. As part of our commitment to customer-centric thinking, we are eagerly awaiting the next session.

If you are interested in Afterschool Alliance, check out their website for more details on how to get involved in their Oct. 22 event, Lights on Afterschool.