Policy & Advocacy

Invest in Youth Development. Now and for the future.

School’s Out Washington is a leading voice for equitable and high-quality expanded learning opportunities in Washington state. We advocate for policies and funding that elevate the entire field of youth development while centering the needs of Black, Indigenous and youth color (BIPOC) and others furthest from educational justice.

This legislative session, SOWA and the Youth Development Strategy table are working to secure major funding and supportive policies that will strengthen and sustain youth development in Washington state.

A state-level investment in youth development is needed now.

Like any critical system, youth development requires resources, reliable data, and dedicated funding to continue delivering high-quality, equitable programming for Washington’s youth.

“There has always been a gap in how youth development work is viewed and resourced, but it took a pandemic to truly expose just how wide and skewed it is. It took a pandemic to expose who has access and who does not, even though data before the pandemic, over and over again, told us that historically marginalized communities faced huge education and opportunity gaps. Once we know better, we do better…our young people need all eyes on them right now, we must do better for them.”


Fahren Johnson, Director of Strategy & Partnerships

What we're fighting for

High quality youth programs have the power to transform lives and strengthen communities.
Youth programs already reinforce the academic, social-emotional, and prevention goals of many state and local agencies. They are part of an upstream, holistic approach to building and maintaining support systems that invest early in the strengths of children and young people. Yet there is no state infrastructure currently supporting the youth development field and its workforce. And both public/private funding streams are extremely limited.

Access for all

In Washington state, there is little public funding for youth development programs. The impact is stark with significant racial and geographic disparities in who has access.

Youth development programs provide support and enrichment beyond the school day, but many families cannot afford programming. Rural and high-poverty communities and communities of color simply do not have enough programs to meet the needs of their youth.

Strong, resilient communities

Youth development programs fill gaps and provide services and support outside of the traditional school day. Yet, nearly 50% of parents in Washington report there is no available afterschool program in their neighborhood.

Community-centered youth programs offer the extra time and structure needed to support children and families with safe, accessible, and culturally-responsive programming.

Healthy, thriving young people

Post-pandemic, Washington families, teachers, and youth workers continue to see overwhelming needs as youth struggle academically and with mental health.

Through mentorship, tutoring, and specially designed programming, youth development meets young people where they’re at—physically, academically, and socially-emotionally.

Learn more
2023 legislative priorities

This state legislative session, the SOWA and the Youth Development Strategy Table coalition is requesting funding for youth programs with Senate Bill 5601 and House Bill 1386. This includes a small, but critical, state infrastructure investment to help providers deepen and sustain equitable outcomes for our youth.

Senate Bill 5601: Funding for state youth development infrastructure ($2 Million for two years)
Currently, no state agency has purview over the youth development field, which was evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. The creation of such an agency is critical to supporting the ecosystem of youth development programs. Our request includes:

  • Funding for community engagement efforts ($60,000 per biennium) 
  • State agency staffing support and grant management ($1.64 million per biennium)
  • Maintenance of a program locator website and data system (Elevate Washington) for youth, families, and other stakeholders ($300,000 per biennium)

House Bill 1386: Funding for direct-service youth development programs ($50 Million for two years)
Youth development programs have consistently provided a space for children and youth to learn and grow outside of the classroom. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the benefits of programs as schools and other critical institutions were unable to open. Challenges in academics and social-emotional learning continue for our state’s young people, and many youth development programs are unable to increase program capacity due to limited funding.

A significant investment in youth development programs would provide access for more of Washington’s young people to critical programs over the next two years. Learn more about our priorities here.

Endorsing organizations

Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County  |  Asia Pacific Cultural Center  |  Housing Hope  |  Foundation for Tacoma Students  |  Latino Community Fund of WA/Alianza Youth Leadership Program   |  Room One  |  Communities In Schools of Washington State Network  |  Latino Community Fund  |  Communities In Schools of Central Washington  |  Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties  |  The Justice for Girls Coalition of Washington State  |  River City Youth Ops  |  MENTOR Washington  |  League of education voters  |  Kinder Care Learning Companies  |  League of Education Voters  |  BBBS of Island County  |  Friends Of The Children Seattle  |  YDEKC  |  Arts Corps  |  United Way of King County  |  Friends of the Children – SW Washington  |  Junior Achievement of Washington  |  Washington Alliance of YMCAs  |  Washington State Alliance of YMCAs  |  The ZoNE
Get involved

Contact the SOWA advocacy team: advocacy@schoolsoutwashington.org

Join the Youth Development Strategy Table. The Youth Development Strategy Table is a coalition of public and non-profit stakeholders working to establish a focused state-level youth development effort to sustain early learning gains, improve academic and social-emotional outcomes, and prevent deep end system involvement Learn more at https://ydstrategy.org

Join the National Afterschool Association (NAA).
NAA is the membership association for professionals who work with children and youth in diverse school and community-based settings to provide a wide variety of extended learning opportunities and care during out-of-school hours. SOWA is the Washington state affiliate of NAA. There are two levels of membership available to afterschool professionals:

Ambassador Membership—FREE
Executive Membership—$99 ($550 Value)

Learn more about NAA memberships

Social Media


Attend Advocacy Week!
February 6 – 10

Now is the time to showcase Youth Development to policymakers!

In partnership with the Youth Development Strategy Table, SOWA will be meeting with youth, providers, and other stakeholders to educate and advocate for our legislative priorities.

Learn more

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