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March 9, 2023– All students need access to safe, affordable before-and-after-school programs
Last month, the Santa Monica-Malibu Council of PTAs voted to advocate for increased funding for youth services in Santa Monica’s budget, and will call upon our City Council to fully fund before-and-after-school programs, to meet the needs of Santa Monica families. With this vote, SMMPTA, which includes elected leadership from all our Santa Monica schools, took a critical step to support parents who depend on City programs for safe, free and affordable, quality enrichment and child care before and after school. On behalf of children and families across the city, we are raising awareness of the need for expanded access to before-and-after-school programs.
We are grateful for Santa Monica’s historic commitment to our schools and children, and for past and current investment in youth services. Currently, the City funds after-school programs at the Police Activities League (PAL) and at Virginia Avenue Park, and at schools across Santa Monica with CREST Club after-school care, CREST Enrichment classes, and the Santa Monica Boys and Girls Club, Playground Club and Afterschool Sports. These much-needed programs have demand that is far greater than the supply, leaving a great many children on waitlists. Crest Club and Playground Club were waitlisted prior to the start of the school year, and have remained waitlisted throughout the year. Youth service programs at Virginia Avenue Park, and at PAL at Memorial Park are full too, and moreover, they are inaccessible to those without transportation. There is a significant need for ALL children to have safe, accessible, free and affordable programs that engage and support them before and after school.
SMMPTA President Erika Bell reminds us “inadequate funding and staffing for these programs is both an equity issue and a safety concern. More city funding is needed to close the opportunity gap caused by inequities in access to youth programs outside of the regular school day to keep all our city’s children in need of these services safe and engaged.”
The City’s staff report lists “equity” and “safety” among Santa Monica’s highest priorities; therefore restoring and increasing funding for youth services should be top of mind. Access to opportunity is not equal; before and after school programs work to bridge gaps across many of the systemic inequities that exist in our community, especially for the historically marginalized, and they help keep our children safe. Lack of access to before-and-after-school programs may put families in the position of leaving children unsupervised at too early an age. Unsupervised children, at best, are without academic support and social engagement; at worst, they are unsafe and at risk. “The likelihood of youth exposure to drug use and other criminal behavior increases dramatically in the hours after school ends. RAND research has shown that the availability of quality after-school activities can reduce participation in and victimization as a result of illicit activities and can boost academic performance.” (RAND Corporation) School programs should continue to include play supervision, homework support, before and after care, and enrichment classes. “These programs improve school attendance and graduation rates, develop workforce skills, prevent crime and substance abuse, and enable low-income parents to work by filling a critical child care need.” (California Afterschool Advocacy Alliance) Equitable access to programming that keeps children safe and engaged is right in line with the City’s guiding values, and should be funded as such.
As the City Council begins the 2023-25 budget process, we must remind our leaders that existing program offerings continue to be limited due to staffing and funding shortages. These programs need sufficient, sustainable funding to meet community demand, and the City must offer wages that are competitive and commensurate with inflation and the rising cost of living. Any further delay in funding commitment will add to hardships for students and their families. To ensure programs best support children and families, sufficient and sustainable funding of before-and-after-school programs is needed.
We, as a community, can ensure the children and families of Santa Monica are prioritized in City budget planning. We can collectively communicate our need for expanded access to before-and-after-school programs and share why such programs help create equity and provide safety. To take part in quick advocacy efforts and to share your stories with the City Council, City Manager, and Director of Finance, visit smmpta.org/youthbudget
About the Santa Monica Malibu Council of PTAs
The Santa Monica-Malibu Council of PTAs supports families and educators in providing quality educational experiences imbued with equity and compassion. We are the local council of PTA, the nation’s oldest and largest volunteer-led child-advocacy association working to drive improvements in the education, health and well-being of all children and families. Every Child. One Voice. smmpta.org