School’s Out Washington works to encourage 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. 

At the state level, we are a leader in a growing coalition of program providers and stakeholders that support the youth development field (expanded learning and school-age child care, mentoring, wrap-around supports) through public policy and advocacy.  The Washington Youth Development Strategy Table (YDST) created a policy agenda and communications strategies that work towards increased funding for and access to high-quality expanded learning opportunities and youth development for Washington’s youth.

By engaging with decision makers through virtual and in-person discussions, site visits, research, and other strategies—SOWA and our partners create needed change for expanded learning across the Evergreen State.

At the federal level, SOWA works in close partnership with the Afterschool Alliance and the National Summer Learning Association


Contact our Policy & Advocacy Director, David Beard, at

Our 2022 state legislative policy priorities include:

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 offer competitive wages and address staff recruitment and retention. In particular, ensuring organizations led by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) have equitable access to funding is critical to eliminating disparities among BIPOC youth and culturally-specific providers.

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.


Strengthening school and community partnerships

A student’s academic, social, emotional, behavioral, and mental health development is influenced by factors inside and outside of the school setting. 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.

Ensuring comprehensive mental and behavioral health supports for youth

We know that the COVID-19 pandemic greatly impacted children and youth’s mental health, academic success, and overall social-emotional well-being. Access to culturally responsive, reliable, and consistent mental and behavioral health services and supports for youth is critical.

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.


Implementing state funding and building support for youth development

Currently, no state agency has purview over the youth development field, and there is a lack of ongoing, sustainable funding for the broader youth development field.

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.

Other critical policy priorities

  • Supporting School-Age Child Care
    School-age child care (SACC) is a vital expanded learning opportunity that supports academic growth and social-emotional learning for children ages five through 12. Most school-age child care programs have been open throughout the pandemic with staff earning less than school-day teachers, aides, and staff. Policy and funding avenues to support school-age child care include, and are not limited to:

    • Continuing to increase subsidy rates for school-age child child care providers
    • Supporting quality infrastructure and professional development for SACC providers
    • Decreasing administrative burdens on providers including improving the background check process, limiting unnecessary licensing requirements, and assisting with program start-up costs in child care deserts
  • Securing new and equitable revenue
    New and modernized revenue sources are needed to ensure our state is strong for all Washingtonians—especially children and youth. Strong and stable revenue systems that meet 21st century needs are needed and now is the time. 
  • Compensating lived experience experts in state decision-making
    Amend RCW 43.03.220 to allow compensation for lived experts’ participation in coordinating bodies and related state-level advisory groups. Currently, lived experts (current or former foster youth) encounter many administrative barriers to being compensated for their time as they help shape and improve state policy and programs. This amendment creates an inclusive, equitable approach to informing policy and decision making.
  • Creating an action plan for diversionary services for court-involved youth
    With the passage of SB 5290 during the 2019 legislative session, expanding diversionary services for court-involved youth is critical. An action plan to build capacity in order to meet the current demand for services is urgently needed. We support efforts to increase diversionary services and request that the youth development and expanded learning field be included in these efforts to create and implement a plan.