Mayors and city councilmembers have an essential role to play in creating, expanding, and improving afterschool programs in communities. Strong municipal leadership is even more important when a community is trying to coordinate disparate afterschool efforts into a coherent citywide afterschool system.
Vocal and visible leadership from mayors, city councilmembers, city managers, and/or city department directors that demonstrates commitment and acknowledges the important role that afterschool programs play can be instrumental in bringing a community together around this important issue.
Utilizing the bully pulpit to discuss community challenges facing children and youth can galvanize the public to support an afterschool effort once they understand the real opportunity gaps for youth that exist in a community. Municipal leaders can use their prominence and influence to convene city partners, community, business, non-profit, and faith-based stakeholders to create a vision and plan to support young people. Elected leaders set the tone in a community and can shape the issues on which leaders focus. They can also make afterschool a priority and ensure that city departments are working together and create a mechanism to strengthen city-school-nonprofit partnerships to better serve children and youth in the afterschool hours.
National reports from the National League of Cities and The Wallace Foundation underscore a growing trend of cities taking an active role to support afterschool and working towards building a coordinated afterschool system. NLC’s report, Municipal Leadership for Afterschool: Citywide Approaches Spreading Across the County, describes the importance of municipal leadership and highlights the various ways that municipal leaders are playing a role to increase afterschool opportunities. The chart below from the report shows that in the 27 cities that are building a coordinated effort for afterschool, mayors thought of afterschool as either a top priority or an important priority.
A 2013 Wallace Foundation commissioned report by FHI, Is Citywide Coordination Going Nationwide, also noted that large cities with mayors committed to afterschool saw greater movement in funding and data use.
In 2013, NLC selected five new states to host statewide mayoral summits on afterschool: NH, NJ, NY, SD, and UT (see NLC’s national press announcement). The goal of these summits is to elevate the issue of afterschool and educate and inform municipal leaders and their school and community partners on the afterschool needs and landscape in their respective states. Using a regional approach allows NLC to convene many more elected officials from communities large and small to discuss the roles that municipal leaders can and have played to champion afterschool. The summits provide an opportunity to share resources, tools, and examples of city-led afterschool efforts. The summits will encourage elected officials and their partners to take action back in their local communities and on the state level. All summits occur in partnership with each respective state’s municipal association.
From 2009-2012, NLC has offered mini-grants and technical assistance to 14 Statewide Afterschool Networks, to host statewide mayoral summits on afterschool. Summits have occurred in AZ, GA, IA, LA, MD, MI, MN, NC, NE, OR, PA, SC, VA, WA. (Summit brief in design and will be posted here). For press announcements, click here (NLC’s national press release can be added here).
View videos from some of the mayoral summits: