Millions of students across California have wrapped up the 2020-21 school year, many remotely from home.
Though teachers, school leaders and parents have worked tirelessly to help children continue to learn this past year, we are in an educational crisis, and schools cannot solve it alone.
Researchers project that Black and Latino students may experience 12-16 months of learning loss by the end of the school year because of school closures during Covid-19. Many students were already behind before the pandemic.
More important, students are facing heightened emotional stressors and mental health challenges. According to the Centers for Disease Control, this past year there has been a 24% increase in mental health-related visits to the emergency room among kids 5-11. Clearly, this crisis will take years to address and repair and will likely have generational consequences.
As community-based service providers with a focus on the whole child and the community, we know that helping young people thrive and supporting their mental health requires ingenuity, innovation and thinking that takes us beyond traditional methods of education in order to meet them where they are and fuel their capacity to develop into healthy, self-reliant, resilient people.
However, we need to have everyone’s help to ensure children can recover and thrive.
This is why hundreds of parents and community-based nonprofit organizations across the state are joining Innovate Public Schools, a nonprofit that advocates for a world-class education for every child, in asking Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature to provide at least $1.1 billion from the American Rescue Plan directly to organizations working on the ground, so that resources immediately reach families most impacted by the pandemic.
With the governor and Legislature continuing to make important decisions on the $100 billion budget they just passed, families and nonprofit providers are demanding that they not be left out, now and in the future. It’s not too late — negotiations are still taking place.
Nonprofits with a track record of providing quality summer learning and after-school enrichment programs to high-need students play an important role in helping working families get back on their feet.
Over the past year, nonprofit service providers stepped up in multiple ways to support students and their families. In addition to offering a variety of services, after-school program staff delivered much-needed resources to families.
Some staff members were called to the front lines to supervise and support students even while school campuses were closed.
Yet, California’s proposed budget for education leaves out direct support for after-school providers. State funds aimed at addressing learning loss, providing enrichment programs and wraparound education services would be administered through school districts and other local education agencies, rather than made directly available to community-based service providers through an application process administered by county offices of education.
Summer activities, afterschool, and weekend programming are critical to children, but are not the primary responsibility of school districts, which need to be focused on other challenging, complex problems right now, like planning for in-person classes in the fall and creating recovery plans to address the immense learning loss and mental health crises caused by the pandemic.
Summer and year-round after-school support for children is, however, the primary responsibility of many high-quality nonprofits. Directly funding community-based organizations will get resources and services to children much more quickly than having these dollars go through school districts.
We are in a crisis of epic proportions for which the long-term implications are just beginning to emerge, as the ramifications of kids falling behind become more apparent. It is critical that the government see direct funding to community-based nonprofit service providers as a long-term strategy to strengthen our most impacted communities and invest in their recovery.
Jonathan Zeichner is CEO of A Place Called Home, a nonprofit organization in South Central Los Angeles that offers enrichment programs for youth in a safe and nurturing environment. Roberto Gil is the director of Self-Sufficiency Programs at Sacred Heart Community Service in San Jose, a nonprofit that addresses the causes of poverty through advocacy, grassroots organizing and provides youth enrichment programs. Steve Wymer is CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Silicon Valley, a nonprofit that offers innovative and effective after-school and summer programs for youth.
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