Recently I had the opportunity to meet with the joint Senate/House Education Appropriations subcommittee in Des Moines to advocate for continued state funding for afterschool programs. This committee indicated strong support for afterschool programs.

Even though afterschool programs at the state level received a cut in funding this year, the support is evident to maintain funding at their current levels, and when the time is appropriate, due to the economic times, possibly increase the amount of funding.

Earlier this week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved an additional $50M for afterschool programs nationally, which will help many more children gain access to afterschool programs nationally, statewide as well as locally.

Our work though is far from complete. The need and demand for high- quality afterschool programs on all levels continues to increase. Too many children are unsupervised between the time the school doors close and parents get home from work. Lack of supervision, structure and academic opportunities can mean squandered opportunities for children to learn, and can leave our young people vulnerable to trouble.

Recent data from Clinton Community Schools Afterschool programs indicates the following:

n 82 percent of students improved academically per teacher surveys

n 76 percent of students scored intermediate to high in math

n 89 percent of students scored intermediate to high in reading

n 92 percent of parents indicate that their child’s safety and academic support are two primary benefits of afterschool programs.

Families in Iowa depend greatly upon afterschool programs. Iowa ranks first in the nation in the percentage of families with either parents (or the only parent) in the workforce. Nearly 250 students attend afterschool programs nightly in Clinton Community Schools Afterschool programs. This still leaves many students locally unsupervised each evening. Students are provided with up to two hours of afterschool activities, including homework assistance, arts and crafts, recreational sports, drug/alcohol prevention and other academic enrichment activities.

If you would like more information on afterschool programs, or would like to become more involved in advocating for afterschool programs, please contact me at Clinton Community Schools at 243-9600, Ext. 47.

Loras Osterhaus is director of afterschool programs for the Clinton School District.

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