Policy & Advocacy

We impact policy so that all Washington youth have equitable access to expanded learning.

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 BIPOC youth and others furthest from educational justice.

The issues

Young people deserve public policies that support their growth, learning, and unique needs—all day, and all year.  While the expanded learning ecosystem is multifaceted, the SOWA advocacy team is focused on these specific areas of youth development:

The facts about expanded learning

Quality expanded learning programs amplify classroom-based instruction, build critical life and career skills, improve academic performance, and inspire young people to discover their passions. They are part of a “youth development approach” that focuses on supportive services and enrichment opportunities that are designed to  meet young people where they are at—physically, academically, socially, and emotionally.  

Through research and community input, we know that no single learning setting can prepare young people for success. Rather, an integrated approach to learning throughout the day and throughout the year is what young people need from the systems they navigate. 

For research on expanded learning, check out our partners at the Afterschool Alliance, the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST), the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA), and the Wallace Foundation’s afterschool and summer webpages.

Working together for expanded learning and youth development

SOWA co-leads The Youth Development Strategy Table, a coalition of advocacy groups, community-based organizations, and public agencies across the state of Washington. Together, we’re building an advocacy strategy that creates space for the diversity of the expanded learning and youth development sectors, while working together with a unified voice for funding to increase access and drive youth program quality.  

View the COVID-19 Primer

2022 state legislative policy priorities

SOWA encourages policy makers at all levels—city, county, in Olympia, and in D.C.—to become champions for youth programming that is engaging, high-quality, and responsive to community needs. 

Accessing COVID-related and Build Back Better funding

Youth programs continue to face challenges during the pandemic. These  include added costs for PPE, food, and overhead to address staff recruitment and retention. Securing continued financial support from the American Rescue Plan Act and potential funding from the federal Build Back Better initiative is critical for the youth development field as we move toward recovery.

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Strengthening school and community partnerships

Ensuring student success requires partnerships between schools, families, and the community as students return to full-time instruction and we move toward COVID recovery. School districts, youth-serving systems and youth development programs must be encouraged, incentivized, and/or required to work in partnership to support the holistic needs of students.

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Ensuring comprehensive mental and behavioral health supports for youth

Legislative solutions must include innovative strategies that address the full spectrum of youth behavioral health needs and facilitate the key role that youth development programs (expanded learning, mentoring, and wraparound support programs) play in supporting the whole child.

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Implementing state funding and building support for youth development

In 2021, the Legislature appropriated funding for a Youth Development Work Group at DCYF in collaboration with OSPI and other stakeholders. Recommendations from the Youth Development Work Group will identify sustainable supports for the youth development field to tackle the challenges and barriers facing foster youth, homeless youth, justice-involved youth, youth from low-income families and youth of color.

The workgroup will establish a long-term vision for the youth development field to support children and young people—at home, at school, and in our communities.

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Other critical policy priorities

Supporting school-age child care

Securing new and equitable revenue

Compensating lived experience experts in state decision-making

Creating an action plan for diversionary services for court-involved youth

Learn more
Get involved

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

Send the SOWA advocacy team an email:

Social Media


Advocacy Events
Every third Thursday!
(2:00 PM—3:00 PM)

Youth development update meetings

Every third Thursday starting March 17

Register here


Email us: advocacy@schoolsoutwashington.org

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