|Dr. Paul G. Young |
President and CEO
Most of us are dealing with a fiscal climate like none we have ever known. Most local and state governmental agencies, particularly schools, are dealing with tax and revenue reductions and severe budget cuts. The outcomes of the 2010 November midterm elections have radically shifted the political landscape. Politicians are prioritizing job development as their primary focus in attempts to reduce persistent double-digit unemployment. The conservative upswing is likely to bring even more tax reductions and restricted government spending. Have we experienced the bottom of the great recession, or could the nation’s economic climate get even worse?
While you watch, wonder, and perhaps worry, you are probably asking yourself and others what will happen to afterschool funding? Will our traditional funding sources be affected? If school budgets are cut across the board, will afterschool programs be reduced or, even worse, eliminated? What does the future hold for our afterschool programs, our jobs, but more importantly, the children and youth we serve who cannot yet care for themselves?
NAA’s mission is to be the voice of the afterschool professional. With such economic and political uncertainty in Washington, DC, and our state capitols – even in our local communities, it is challenging to know what to say or who to speak to. But with inevitable change in the air, it is wise to avoid sounding like a whining victim, even should our budgets be cut. Everyone is being asked to re-evaluate priorities and adapt to the new economic realities. It is best to align our voices and collectively focus on what we know and do best – being part of the solutions to problems – and clearly demonstrate how afterschool programs can provide safe, nurturing places for children and youth to achieve their potential while parents get back to work in the new jobs that must be developed if this recession is ever to end!
We must have jobs – now and in the future. The families of the children and youth in our afterschool programs must have meaningful jobs. They must also have accessible, affordable, and high-quality before, afterschool, and summer program opportunities while they work. Most importantly, our program participants must be mastering skills that enable them to compete globally, and our challenge is to prepare them now for jobs that don’t even exist. Many of those jobs will be in the STEM-related (science, technology, engineering, and math) areas. We must capitalize on the collaboration, partnerships, and alignment work with schools and further show the benefits that extended learning opportunities, especially in STEM-related areas, have upon the development of skills needed for the global marketplace.
We must voice how the puzzle pieces must fit together in a new downsized economy. Families need jobs. Children and youth need safe and nurturing learning environments while parents work. Schools need afterschool to provide time for extended learning for all children who need it. Support for afterschool is an investment in jobs (present) and in the workforce (future). We can’t expect a sufficient return on investment in educational dollars without afterschool.
We all know these are tough times. When times get tough, the tough stand up rather than be pushed down. NAA plans to lead the dialogue about how afterschool supports the solutions to economic recovery. We need your help by telling your story. Why do you do what you do? Stand strong, speak up, and never lose sight of the important work we do for children, youth, and families.