Do After-School Programs Positively Impact Children?
Proponents of President Trump’s budget say no. Their evidence may be faulty.
After-school programs are on the chopping block in the Trump administration’s proposed budget, an issue a reporter drew attention to at a recent press conference with the director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney. In response to a question about the future of these programs, Mulvaney said, “They’re supposed to be educational programs, right? And that’s what they’re supposed to do … There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re helping results, helping kids do better in school.”
Though the exchange with the reporter generated some confusion—a separate conversation about Meals On Wheels, the program that helps feed homebound seniors, became muddled into the after-school-program conversation—the GOP’s budget is clear when it comes to its plans for after-school programs. It proposes cutting 21st Century Learning Centers, which fund comprehensive after-school enrichment for 1.6 million children throughout the country. Nearly three-quarters of participants are low income.
While there are studies that back up Mulvaney’s assertion that these programs don’t help kids improve academically, the evidence is dated, and proponents of the programs argue that they fail to account for some very real benefits.
Toward the end of the administration of former President Bill Clinton, Mark Dynarski, the founder of Pemberton Research and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, began working with the U.S. Department of Education to assess what kinds of results 21st Century Learning centers achieved. They released three different reports between 2003 and 2005. The results were not encouraging. “The program didn’t affect student outcomes,” Dynarski explained in a Brookings article in 2015. “Except for student behavior, which got worse.”
David Muhlhausen, a research fellow in empirical policy analysis at the Heritage Foundation, also questions the Research Mixed on After-School Programs in Wake of Trump Budget - The Atlantic: