Kentucky Parents Want After-School and Summer Learning Programs, But They Aren’t Being Funded, Advocate Says

A new survey finds 8 in 10 Kentucky parents say after-school programs could help their child combat social and mental health struggles by reducing unproductive screen time.

Experts say demand for these types of programs has increased in the Commonwealth.

Executive Director of the Afterschool Alliance Jodi Grant said after-school programs often are understaffed partnerships between schools and community-based organizations. She said local districts currently can’t keep up with demand.

“In Kentucky,” said Grant, “for every child that’s in a program, the parents of four more want their kids to be in a program — and these parents and these kids are choosing to be there.”

She also pointed out that Black and Latino children are among those most likely to lack access.

According to the survey, more than 60% of parents of color, and those with low incomes, said they want after-school programs that help their child build life skills and reduce risky behaviors.

Director of the Kentucky Out-of-School Alliance Tom Haggard said he believes state leaders haven’t prioritized after-school programming.

“We really haven’t put in the state dollars toward after-school or summer learning at a really impactful level,” said Haggard. “Many of the other states have made investments in after-school, and that just isn’t something that we’ve been able to do yet in Kentucky.”

Grant pointed to federal COVID dollars as a resource to help support and expand after-school and summer learning programs for kids.

“We absolutely need to be doing more to tap into more dollars for the families that can’t afford these programs,” said Grant, “because they are creating opportunities for the kids for the working parents and for our long-term economy.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, around a dozen states nationwide currently are providing funding dedicated to after-school programs.