Survey Finds Increase in City-Level Afterschool & Summer Learning Investments


  • Bela Spooner
  • Emily Young
December 22, 2021 - (4 min read)

Afterschool and summer learning programs have long been touted as a strategy to augment young people’s learning and developmental opportunities outside of the regular school day. Higher-income families spend more than five times as much as lower-income families on afterschool, summer, and other out-of-school activities without blinking an eye because they know the difference these programs can make, and they can afford it.i This only widens the opportunity gap that exists between students from different income brackets. 

Pandemic-related school closures over the past two years, in addition to many afterschool and summer learning program closures, have shined a spotlight on student needs. Suddenly, the essential role of afterschool and summer learning programs became apparent. Those programs that could afford to remain open, even barely, stepped up to the plate to ensure children had the support they needed. These programs led key rapid response efforts – administering food, technology, and resources to children, youth, and their families, providing enrichment, recreation, and childcare, as well as offering programs that address municipal priorities like community violence prevention and job training. During this tumultuous time, the ways that city-run and community-based afterschool and summer learning programs support a community’s vitality became crystal clear.  

To examine the extent to which municipalities prioritized afterschool and summer learning programs in their communities over the last three years, the National League of Cities (NLC) conducted the National Municipal Afterschool & Summer Learning survey. This survey assessed the scale of services and investments from cities before the pandemic (prior to March 2020) and during its height (March 2020 to January 2021). The survey also examined how service and investment decisions, as well as city partnerships, changed as cities worked towards recovery (January 2021 – December 2021) and received new federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES). Finally, the survey also assessed city leaders’ insights into how they plan to make post-pandemic investments (2022-2024) in afterschool and summer learning. The findings of NLC’s National Municipal Afterschool & Summer Learning survey capture over 150 responses from 33 states and signal optimistic trends. 

NLC’s findings tell an important story of how municipal investments, program delivery, partnerships, and perspectives toward afterschool and summer learning evolved as a result of the pandemic. Students’ basic needs, as well as their learning and social needs, became more widely understood and more difficult to ignore. Findings from the National Municipal Afterschool & Summer Learning survey will be released on March 2, 2022, at the virtual event “Meeting the Moment: Cities Increase Investments in Young People to Support Pandemic Recovery and Beyond.” At this event, NLC will reveal its new report detailing the compelling survey findings along with 10 Action Steps for Municipal Leaders. Participants will also be the first to gain access to an exciting new interactive data dashboard that allows users to break down responses by region, city size, and more. These new tools will support local elected officials and youth advocates’ efforts to make the case for increased programs and services; which are necessary to support children, youth, and families as their communities work to recover and thrive beyond the pandemic.  

For more information about the upcoming release of the National Municipal Afterschool & Summer Learning survey findings report and the data dashboard contact 

Learn More

Register for our Afterschool Policy Advisors’ Network (APAN) meeting on Wednesday, March 2nd, 2022 at 2 PM EST to hear findings from the survey on how the investments and partnerships of local governments have evolved during this crisis and the leading role cities play in the recovery and beyond.

i Afterschool Alliance. (2020). America after 3PM Demand Grows, Opportunity Shrinks. America After 3PM. Retrieved February 8, 2022, from 

About the Authors

Bela Spooner

About the Authors

Bela Shah Spooner is the Program Director with the Education and Expanded Learning team with the Institute for Youth, Education, and Families at the National League of Cities.

Emily Young

Emily Young is a Program Specialist with the Education and Expanded Learning team within the Institute for Youth, Education, and Families at the National League of Cities.