Using information to improve programs, even when money's tight.

Public school systems are hurting. As we reported recently, local governments are taking a double beatdown from declines in property tax revenue and state aid, and it's the schools that are taking many of the cuts in funding and employment. In times of tight budgets, maintaining levels of service can be incredibly challenging. After-school programs – already heavily reliant on outside funding – are put at even greater stress. But these programs don't have to fade away because of tough economic times. A new series of tip sheets from the Wallace Foundation offers ideas about how cities and schools can utilize data about their after-school offerings to maintain and improve programs.

Written by Jennifer Gill, the tip sheets make the case to cities and program providers that having more data about after-school programs will make them easier to run and improve, and therefore more effective as bargaining tools to secure more funding, even when money's tight.

The reports argue that cities, school districts and other program organizers need to start collecting and monitoring data about their after-school programs. Those that do will be able to realize these five ways of making their programs better:

  • Improve accountability
  • Map the need for and supply of after-school programs and funds
  • Assess and improve the quality of programs
  • Harness advocacy for obtaining more resources from governments or other funders
  • Share data with schools to help improve the education of students

Collecting and analyzing this information can have valuable by-products, according to Gill.

Relationships grow stronger between the various partners who play a role in improving learning opportunities for children. When a city’s youth agency and school district share data to analyze results of after-school participation, they’re breaking down walls and supporting each other’s work. When parents are invited to a focus group about after-school programs, they feel like their opinions matter. When providers have a say in how OST quality is defined and measured, they know their work is valued.

Money is power in so many ways when it comes to operating government and quasi-government services. But when the money's not there, knowledge can at least partially fill the gap.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo-illustration of several big-box retail stores.
    Equity

    After the Retail Apocalypse, Prepare for the Property Tax Meltdown

    Big-box retailers nationwide are slashing their property taxes through a legal loophole known as "dark store theory." For the towns that rely on that revenue, this could be a disaster.

  2. A photo of British Prime Minister Theresa May announcing her government's Brexit deal outside No. 10 Downing Street
    Equity

    Britain Finally Has a Brexit Deal. Everyone Hates It.

    Amid resignations, it's clear the U.K. government massively misjudged how leaving the European Union would play out.

  3. A man walks his dog on a hilltop overlooking San Francisco in the early morning hours on Mount Davidson.
    Equity

    When Millennials Battle Boomers Over Housing

    In Generation Priced Out, Randy Shaw examines how Boomers have blocked affordable housing in urban neighborhoods, leaving Millennial homebuyers in the lurch.

  4. A map of states with laws that make voting more difficult.
    Equity

    Voting Rights Aren’t Just a Black Issue: They Affect Poor People of All Races

    The Poor People's Campaign is building a multi-ethnic national force to “save the democracy,” and end the cross-racial poverty it sees as born of racialized voter suppression.

  5. A photo shows the Amazon logo on a building.
    Amazon HQ2

    Amazon’s HQ2 Spectacle Isn’t Just Shameful—It Should Be Illegal

    Each year, local governments spend nearly $100 billion to move headquarters and factories between states. It’s a wasteful exercise that requires a national solution.