New legislation to authorize a grant program funding improvement of after-school programs was signed into law on March 7.
SB202 will create a grant program to fund the improvement of existing after-school programs in Utah public schools. Private organizations or individuals will apply for the grant and be required to match state funds provided for after-school programs.
Utah does not currently fund any after-school programs.
SB202 is modeled after a research study conducted by the Utah Afterschool Network and the University of Utah. The study analyzes after-school program improvement studies conducted throughout Utah schools in 2017.
Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, the bill’s sponsor, said SB202 will implement proven methods to increase education quality and well-being for underprivileged children.
“Data and evidence shows a correlation between the child’s welfare and high-quality, standard after-school programs,” Escamilla said.
Escamilla said the bill looks to provide safety and healthy nurturing environments for Utah children. She also said funding after-school programs will help students develop and maintain positive relationships and learn new skills.
The Utah Board of Education and the Department of Workforce Services will work together to implement the grant program and report on its funding. SB202 will provide $125,000 in funding to both the Utah Board of Education and the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
The grant program will promote a private-public partnership. Private organizations will apply for a grant and will be required to match the state funds provided for after-school programs.
“My goal is to bring private-public partnerships together,” Escamilla said. “So if we have $150,000 from the state investing on quality after-school programs, there’s another $150,000 from the private sector coming in.”
Wynn Shooter, Ph.D., assistant director at the Utah Education Policy Center at University of Utah, said SB202 will promote more effective after-school programs.
“Not all after-school programs are effective,” Wynn said. “Fortunately, researchers have identified several key features that effective programs would include … maintaining and building relationships, aligning after-school efforts with efforts of the school day, offering a balance of academic supports and developmental enrichment opportunities.”
After-school programs that qualify for grants will be required to include homework tutoring and enrichment arts, sports and tech activities. A snack or dinner would be provided to qualifying low-income students.
Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, said one concern with SB202 is that higher-income areas may receive more grants because the program requires private organizations to match state funds.
“I want to make sure (the children most at risk) are the ones that get it, and not just the better applicant writers,” Stephenson said.
Escamilla said SB202 will require the Utah Board of Education and Department of Workforce Services to evaluate which areas have the most children at high risk by looking at the number of students who qualify for reduced or free lunch in areas applying for grants.
The program aims to achieve two key outcomes: developmental features, such as social and emotional well-being determined through student evaluations, and academic outcomes determined through student standardized test scores.
Kelly Riding, executive director of the Utah Afterschool Network, said there’s over 10 years of research supporting the safety after-school programs give to children. She said SB202 will help many Utah children and families by keeping children safe and by helping support children academically, socially and emotionally.
Riding said after-school programs help many parents maintain employment. Seventy-one percent of surveyed Utah parents said after-school programs provide peace of mind, and 81 percent of surveyed Utah parents support public funding for after-school programs, according to the Utah Afterschool Network’s and University of Utah’s findings.
Escamilla said she believes SB202 will make a positive impact on the lives of many Utah families.
“I believe there is a role where we can be more proactive, specifically in improving those high-quality programs for children in programs whose parents work,” Escamilla said. “Understanding that our economy is growing and that there are more two-parent households that are working, we want to make sure children are going to correct programs.”
SB202 was signed into law on March 7.