Message From Co-Chairs

Children and youth across the Commonwealth need our help and support to become caring and productive members of our society. As Co-Chairs of this Special Commission, we welcome your input as we work together with our 36 members to craft recommendations on how best to support the healthy development of children and youth when they are in and out of school. In addition to the Commission meetings about this critical issue, we intend to hold at least nine public hearings across the Commonwealth. We are aware that not everyone will be able to attend and and invite you to use this blog to communicate with us about your issues and concerns. We look forward to your comments.

Posting Rules and Etiquette

We welcome and value your feedback and ask that you do the following in order to post your comments to this blog. 1. To provide your first and last name and the town or city in which you live to help us track the feedback statewide. 2. To label your comments so we can direct your feedback to the right Commission Work Group. The Commission's three Work Groups are: 1) Information and Access; 2) Quality, Workforce and Professional Development and 3) Sustainability. If your comments cut across all three Work Groups, please label that as "Crosscutting Issue". 3. To add constructive and professional comments - rude or profane comments will be deleted. Thanks and we look forward to hearing from you.

Friday, May 23, 2008

House Increases Funding for After School Programs

Since our last blog entry, the Senate and House Committee on Ways and Means, the Joint Committees on Education and Children, Youth and Families as well as other members of the Massachusetts Legislature have been examining the Special Commission's report and its recommendations in advance of the FY09 budget debate. This internal process allowed elected officials and their staff the opportunity to better understand the value of afterschool in the lives of the Commonwealth's children and youth.

As a result of this thoughtful process, the Massachusetts House of Representatives finalized their budget for FY09 on May 3. It is exciting to share that several statewide initiatives that fund afterschool programs saw important increases. This is particularly exciting considering the current fiscal climate in the state.

Representative Marie St. Fleur, the Vice-Chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Co-Chair of the Massachusetts Special Commission on After School and Out of School Time, was successful in her efforts to increase funding for the Afterschool and Out-of-School Time (ASOST) Program Quality grant from $2M last year to $5M this year.

The Shannon Grant Program which provides funding for afterschool programs as part of its gang prevention efforts, saw a $2M increase from last year. Now $13M is available for funding statewide instead of $11M.

The Department of Public Health's Youth Violence Prevention grant also received more funding - $3M this year versus $2M from last year.

The Extended Learning Time Initiative also received more funding in the House budget. Funded last year at $13M, now $17.5M is available statewide to continue to help schools lengthen their school day.

The Senate passed their version of the budget on May 22. Additional information will be forthcoming about the status of the above afterschool program line items finalized in the Senate budget next week.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Special Commission Releases Report in Boston on Thursday, November 15

The Massachusetts Special Commission on After School and Out of School Time released its report "Our Common Wealth: Building a Future for Our Children and Youth" on Thursday, November 15 at the State House in Boston. Covered by WBUR, WBZ, the Neighborhood Network News, the Dorchester News, the Metro and editorialized in The Boston Globe, the time children and youth spend in afterschool programs was heralded as key opportunity to develop the future leaders and citizens of Massachusetts.

Co-Chairs Senator Thomas McGee and Representative Marie St. Fleur welcomed the crowd in Nurses Hall which included an opening icebreaker led by youth from the Center for Teen Empowerment. After acknowledgements were given by Representative Marie St. Fleur, Lynn D'Ambrose, from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, spoke about the important role of afterschool programs from a funder's perspective. The Nellie Mae Education Foundation provided a matching grant to help support the Special Commission's work. Two youth speakers from WriteBoston and the United Teen Equality Center (UTEC) also talked about why afterschool programs were essential in their lives. The Co-Chairs then presented the initial findings and recommendations of the Commission. Fellow Commission members Senator Karen Spilka, Representative Alice Wolf, Representative Pam Richardson, Berna Mann, Lisa Pickard, Michael Cahill, Maryellen Coffey, Laurie Glassman, Carole Thomson, Debbie Kneeland, Rick Metters Joseph Gillis, Jr., Ben Lummis, Commissioner Ann Reale, Sally Fogerty, and Susan O'Connor were also introduced. Others who were deeply involved in the Special Commission's work were also on hand: Fran Barret, Kate Roper, Swapnil Maniar, Donna Trayhnam and Karyl Resnick.

Youth exhibits were featured from Express Yourself, Trinity Boston Foundation, Medicine Wheel Youth Group. Zumix provided two youth who played classical guitar at the closing reception.

The Boston Globe featured the Special Commission's work in an editorial published on November 17, 2007.


Comprehensive study details the critical need to engage 1.3 million youth

[Boston, MA] November 15, 2007 - Concluding seven months of research, the Massachusetts Special Commission on Afterschool and Out of School Time found that quality programs play a key role in making sure that young people realize their full potential to become well-rounded adults and responsible citizens. However, the Special Commission found that an estimated 80% of the Commonwealth’s children and youth are not currently participating in these programs because of cost, transportation, and other barriers.

Afterschool programs – referring to high quality activities that engage children and youth when they are not in school, including before and after school, week-ends, school vacations and during the summer – have proven to help students do better in school, live healthier, and gain and practice the critical skills that allow them to compete in the new economy. Afterschool programs also contribute to positive relationships among young people, which are critical to child and youth development, including healthy brain development.

At a State House event on Thursday, the Commission officially released their report “Our Common Wealth: Building a Future for Our Children and Youth.” The Special Commission found afterschool programs provide a unique opportunity where all the key domains of child and youth development are linked. Valuable lifelong benefits include a range of hands-on learning and interactions with caring adults and essential life skills such as teamwork, creative problem-solving, perseverance, conflict resolution, project management and leadership.

“We heard some amazing stories from kids across the state. Providing quality opportunities after school is essential to helping them become productive, future leaders in the Commonwealth,” said Senator Thomas McGee, Co-Chair of the Special Commission and Chair of the Labor and Workforce Development Committee. “Learning takes place at every hour of the day and in all of the places where young people spend their time. What are we doing to help them become the people they are meant to be and the future leaders that we need to help us address the complex issues of living in a global society? We need to recognize that and make sure all the places that our young people go are equipped to help them realize their full potential.”

The Special Commission found that afterschool programs provide a critical place for young people to develop positive relationships with their peers and with caring adults which become the foundation for their lifelong success. Their participation in high quality afterschool opportunities helps them gain employment, be in stable relationships, be more involved in their communities, trust their parents more, and be happy.

“It’s about the ‘We’ in our society,” noted Representative Marie St. Fleur, Co-Chair of the Special Commission and Vice-Chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means. “We are responsible and both the public and private sectors should do everything we can. We have to do everything possible to support how our young people learn and grow when they are in or out of school. If we don’t, thousands of young people will continue to miss out on the types of activities that will help them succeed in life.”

Massachusetts has nearly 1.3 million children and youth; more than 850,000 are ages 5-14 and more than 400,000 are ages 15-19. Survey research estimates that only 20% or 260,000 are participating in afterschool programs statewide ages 5-14. The Commission found a significant gap in afterschool programs for older youth. The Commonwealth is only able to serve close to 6% or 70,000 children and youth with current state funding, leaving thousands of children and youth, or nearly 80%, without access to the enriching opportunities that are proven to help them become well-rounded individuals as well as future leaders of our state and nation.

Calling for specific actions in five key areas, the Special Commission recommends:

1) Increasing Public Awareness by creating a statewide public awareness campaign about the importance of afterschool programs in the development of children and youth.

2) Providing Information and Increasing Access by making it easier for parents to find out about afterschool programs statewide and for the state to collect more data that will help policymakers and funders better understand the need for afterschool programming across the Commonwealth.

3) Promoting Quality Programs and a Quality Workforce through the creation of a professional development fund, the enhancement and coordination of existing regional technical assistance centers, the systemic exploration of compensation and benefits to reduce the high turn-over rate; and formalizing a set of competencies and program measures to achieve quality standards.

4) Fostering Partnerships and Collaboration by creating public and private partnerships at state, regional and local levels to leverage existing revenue and resources already dedicated to this purpose. In particular the Special Commission calls for increased collaboration between schools and community-based organizations where school facilities, alternative transportation drop-offs and other strategies can be explored to increase access to quality afterschool program opportunities for children and youth. In addition, there are a number of other allies who want to be more involved in a coordinated effort to provide afterschool programs such as the Commonwealth’s library system, private and parochial schools, the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the network of municipal parks and recreation departments among others.

5) Sustaining the Effort to ensure the afterschool field has the sustained resources, policies and partners to help provide a stable continuum of quality afterschool experiences for children and youth by maximizing all the federal, state, local and private revenue coming to Massachusetts including full federal reimbursement. Other recommendations call for state agencies to work together to reduce the administrative barriers afterschool programs face when applying for funding.

Central to implementing the recommendations in these five areas is the proposed creation of a Statewide Afterschool and Out-of-School Time Public and Private Coordinating Council.

Comprised of senior leaders across a variety of disciplines, this group will bring together representatives from state and municipal governments, public safety, arts, libraries, parks and recreation departments, workforce development, business, higher education, private funders and youth, and other community leaders, to create a more unified and coordinated response to ensure that Massachusetts’ children and youth receive quality opportunities for all youth in the Commonwealth.

For access to the Special Commission’s full 160 page report, its 28 page Executive Summary, and Profiles of Selected Afterschool Programs in every Massachusetts Legislative District, visit the Special Commission's website .

Special Commission Releases Report in Springfield on Tuesday, November 13

Senator Thomas McGee and Representative Marie St.Fleur watching the Over the Top dancers at the North End Youth Center in Springfield on November 13, 2007. Photo courtesy of the Springfield Republican.

The Massachusetts Special Commission on After School and Out of School Time released its report on Tuesday, November 13 at the North End Youth Center in Springfield. Covered by Channel 22, Channel 40, WFCR,, and the Springfield Republican, the time children and youth spend in afterschool programs was heralded as key opportunity to develop the future leaders and citizens of Massachusetts.

Co-Chairs Senator Thomas McGee and Representative Marie St. Fleur welcomed the crowd which included a spirited performance by the Over the Top Dancers followed by a presentation by both Co-Chairs about the initial findings and recommendations of the Commission. Fellow Commission members Michael Cahill, Gwynn Hughes, Debbie Kneeland, Rick Metters and Susan O'Connor were also introduced. Two youth speakers talked about why afterschool programs were important in their lives as well.

Youth exhibits were featured from the Brick House in Turners Falls, Citizen Schools in Springfield, Girls Inc. in Holyoke, the Connections Program in Holyoke, the NEARI Jump Start Program in Holyoke and Youth Leadership in the Arts in Northampton.

Click the below links for some of our media coverage:

2) Springfield Republican
3)Channel 22

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Special Commission Prepares to Release Final Report

Please join Co-Chairs, Senator Thomas McGee and Representative Marie St. Fleur next week as they release the final report of the Massachusetts Special Commission on After School and Out of School Time . Report release events will be held on:

Tuesday, November 13, 5 PM - 7 PM - North End Youth Center, 1772 Dwight Street in Springfield

Thursday, November 15, 3 PM - 5 PM - State House, Nurses Hall in Boston

Youth and the work they have created in their afterschool programs will be featured.
An Executive Summary and a CD of the full report will also be made available.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Special Commission Extends Deadline to Receive Public Testimony

Members of the public who have not yet had the chance to submit written testimony to the Massachusetts Special Commission on After School and Out of School Time will have until next Tuesday, October 30, to do so. Testimony can be submitted three different ways - through this blog, through the Special Commission's website or in writing.

Written testimony can be mailed to either of the Co-Chairs offices at:

Senator Thomas McGee
Room 112
The State House
Boston, MA 02133


Rep. Marie St. Fleur
Room 238
The State House
Boston, MA 02133

All previously submitted testimony, either written or presented verbally at any of the 10 public hearings, has been documented for the record and reviewed for the Special Commission's final report.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Co-Chairs Issue Statement in Support of National Lights On! Afterschool National Celebration - October 18, 2007

For Release October 18, 2007


“We salute the work of the Afterschool Alliance for their ongoing effort to promote quality afterschool programming for our nation’s youth. Today's national celebration will bring thousands of communities across the country together to highlight the need to provide meaningful opportunities for over 14 million children. As Co-Chairs of the Special Commission on Afterschool and Out of School Time, we’ve participated in hearings across the Commonwealth that focus on what’s working and what we need to improve upon here in Massachusetts. As the national Lights On! Afterschool Celebration points out, ‘Afterschool programs keep kids safe, help working families and inspire learning. They provide opportunities to help young people develop into successful adults.’ We look forward to releasing an official report next month that will help to advance this important issue here in the Commonwealth.”

About The Massachusetts Special Commission on After School and Out of School Time
The Massachusetts Special Commission on After School and Out of School Time has been created 'to study and recommend how to' define and 'better coordinate, expand, finance and improve accessible, affordable, and quality out-of-school time programming for school age children in all settings in Massachusetts."

There are 1.1 million school aged children and youth ages 5-18 that live in Massachusetts. Of that group, 720,000 are children ages 5-13 and 380,000 are youth ages 14-19. Current state funding serves 205,500 children and youth leaving nearly 80% without access to quality and enriching afterschool and summer opportunities.

The Massachusetts Special Commission on After School and Out of School Time has been studying this issue more in-depth. In addition to holding ten public hearings, it has also convened three working groups that will 1) analyze information and access issues; 2) identify quality, workforce and professional development concerns, and 3) determine how the afterschool system in the Commonwealth can be sustained. The Special Commission expects to issue a report in the fall of 2007 that will have recommendations in these areas which will strengthen the Commonwealth's afterschool system.

The Massachusetts Special Commission on After School and Out of School Time
For More Information Contact:
Debra McLaughlin, Consultant to the Commission

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