By Kim Eisenreich
Last September's statewide mayoral summit on afterschool in Kearney, NE, marked the culmination of a series of summits held in nine states throughout 2012. These events connected hundreds of mayors, councilmembers and other municipal leaders to their statewide afterschool networks, building lasting partnerships with the dual goals of improving local initiatives and adding more municipal voices to discussions of state policies on afterschool programming.
Funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, statewide afterschool networks are located in 41 states across the country. Bringing together policymakers, agency heads, providers and advocates, the networks help cities expand access to high-quality afterschool opportunities while seeking to influence decisions about state afterschool policy and funding levels.
From Connecticut to Minnesota to Washington state, these partnerships have in many cases brought an influx of additional state funds to local communities, increasing the availability and quality of programs for children and youth. A variety of studies have shown that students who participate in high-quality afterschool programs are more engaged in school, have better academic outcomes and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors.
For more than three years, NLC's Institute for Youth, Education and Families (YEF Institute) has worked to strengthen relationships between the networks and city officials. With support from the Mott Foundation and The Wallace Foundation, the Institute provided financial and technical assistance that helped statewide networks partner with state municipal leagues to host mayoral summits on afterschool in Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington between March and September 2012. An earlier round of summits took place between 2009 and 2010 in Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan and South Carolina with the Mott Foundation's support.
The summits not only informed cities about the education, public safety and economic development benefits of afterschool, but also gave them new tools to improve local programs. For instance, in Hammond, LA, Councilman Lemar Marshall has invited the Louisiana Center for Afterschool Learning to present to the Hammond City Council and advise the city on how to continue enhancing its afterschool opportunities. The Maryland Out of School Time Network is working closely with the City of Baltimore to support its quality system by providing training and staff development opportunities to the city's youth workers.
In other states, the summits helped networks identify and support local leaders who can serve as champions for afterschool at the state level. Witnessing the enthusiasm of mayors participating in the Oregon summit, Oregon Afterschool for Kids plans to join mayors this spring at its annual "Day on the Hill" to advocate for state policies that support afterschool. In Pennsylvania, representatives from the City of Philadelphia are participating in a joint committee with the Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool Youth Development Network and state officials to identify shared program outcome measures.
Details: The YEF Institute plans to support a third round of mayoral summits in six states later in 2013 and into 2014. However, city officials can connect with their networks at any time by visiting http://www.statewideafterschoolnetworks.net or contacting Kim Eisenreich at (202) 626-3035 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
City officials can also download an NLC strategy guide to learn more about how partnerships between local elected officials and statewide afterschool networks can be a powerful force to improve state and local afterschool policies and programs.