With the allocation of over $15 billion from the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ARPA/ESSER III) to Texas public education, including almost $3 billion for out-of-school time learning, we find it imperative that afterschool and summer programs in the Central Texas region receive the funding they need to continue providing and expanding learning recovery opportunities.
It is particularly important that this funding reaches the local schools and educational agencies that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially those communities in which the pandemic exacerbated pre-existing inequality. Due to the pandemic, many students–especially those of color and those living in low-income communities–are struggling with learning loss, social isolation, hunger, and mental health challenges. Students need to feel safe and supported to re-engage in learning, rebuild relationships, and emerge from this crisis strong, resilient, and hopeful; and we need whole community engagement to make this happen.
We need a comprehensive ecosystem of support to help youth and families recover, and out-of-school time learning is a vital component of that ecosystem. As well as adapting to additional health and safety measures to continue offering in-person care during the COVID-19 pandemic, out-of-school time staff are already helping youth recover academic, social, and emotional learning, and community-based organizations continue to connect families to critical services and resources such as food, technology, and healthcare.
An essential part of the daily economic, social, and emotional lives of our communities, out-of-school time learning programs are one evidence-based intervention that supports families by providing safe and engaging spaces for youth with working parents, and expands career pipelines for educators. Evidence-based interventions focused on social and emotional learning, such as the Andy Roddick Foundation’s Whatchamafeelit kit, are especially important during this period when students and families are trying to overcome post-pandemic mental, social, and emotional struggles.
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