2021 Policy Priorities
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.
Contact our Policy & Advocacy Director, David Beard, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our 2021 state legislative policy priorities include:
Improve the Learning Assistance Program (LAP)
Ensuring student success requires strong partnerships between school, families, and the community. LAP boosts academic and social-emotional supports for Washington youth—especially for youth in poverty and youth of color. SOWA and our partners in the Youth Development Strategy Table are pushing for several improvements to LAP so that it targets youth who need it most and increases school-community partnerships.
We seek the following changes to LAP:
- Flexibility for districts while maintaining the intent of supporting academic and social-emotional learning and adding a linkage to the Washington Integrated Student Supports Protocol
- Elimination of the 5% cap on the amount of funds districts can share with community-based organizations; Doing so will provide local control, maximum flexibility, and leveraging of community resources
- Sunlight on requirements on how funds are spent at the state and local levels with assurances of no supplantation and clear metrics for student success (not limited to assessment scores)
- Tiered funding for High-Poverty LAP so that more students can benefit in more districts
Protect funding for youth development
Expanded learning and youth development professionals provide essential academic and social-emotional learning supports for young people. These programs regularly face inadequate funding to pay staff living wages and benefits. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they are also putting themselves at risk to work with youth in-person while many schools remain closed. Protecting the small, but essential funding streams for expanded learning and youth development programs is even more critical.
Specific budget items include, but are not limited to:
- Sustaining and increasing school-age child care rates
- Academic-Innovation-Mentoring funding (AIM)
- No Child Left Inside program
- Department Of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) Adolescent Unit FTEs
- Youth Recreational Fund and the Building Communities Fund for capital projects
Support for school-age child care
School-age child care 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. In order to sustain this field and support their essential worker status, we are calling on lawmakers to approve the requests for the 2021-23 biennium.
Child care subsidy rates are still below market value and families still pay a portion of child care costs. At times, policymakers have required providers to be in Early Achievers (EA) for rate increases, but school-age only child care is exempt from EA. The cost of child care is much more than the subsidy, and providers struggle to stay in business and provide a living wage, especially during the pandemic. Rate increases are needed and should be made available to all child care providers.
Quality supports are urgently needed. We request the state reinstate funding for the Expanded Learning Quality Initiative to provide appropriate supports for school-age providers in partnership with the Early Achievers system.
State infrastructure and support
We urge our legislators to support the Fair Start for Kids Act and any legislation regarding child care that includes specific language to support and strengthen school-age child care along with early learning-focused child care.
Amplify school-community partnerships
A student’s ability to be successful happens in and beyond the classroom. Access to additional learning time, social-emotional skill building, and basic needs support is critical. This session, SOWA and our partners seek legislation to encourage school and community partnerships related to early learning, K-12, and post-secondary pathways. Our state, district, and community partners have numerous tools to support students. When we work together, these tools become more effective and dynamic to meet student needs.
Drive new revenue
Cuts to programs that support children and families will not only set our state back but will also hurt the economy. New and modernized revenue sources are needed to ensure our state is strong for all Washingtonians—especially children and youth.