To the Editor:
Kudos to Marin Gjaja, J. Puckett, and Matt Ryder for shedding light on the important issue of school funding in their recent Commentary (“When It Comes to School Funding, Equity Is the Key,” Feb. 19, 2014).
Their work clearly shows that increased spending per pupil leads to positive impacts on students. The authors do a great job of distinguishing between funding from state governments, the federal government, local property taxes, and additional fundraising by parents or the community.
But what isn’t directly mentioned is the investment by after-school and summer programs, which leverage significant philanthropic dollars to improve student outcomes. After-school programs like Citizen Schools, Providence After School Alliance, Building Educated Leaders for Life, and my organization, Higher Achievement, are investing meaningful dollars in underserved communities and finding strong results across the country.
By my calculations, just these four programs leverage more than $70 million per year to support underserved students’ academic and enrichment needs. Higher Achievement’s programs in the Washington region; Richmond, Va.; Baltimore; and Pittsburgh have seen dramatic student outcomes according to our analysis, including 94 percent of our middle school participants graduating from high school within four years.
The Commentary authors write, “The United States can better live up to its reputation as the land of opportunity by creating more opportunities for all students, especially low-income students.” We have a saying at Higher Achievement: “Talent is everywhere. Opportunity is not.” Proven, rigorous after-school programs aren’t just increasing per-pupil costs, but they are moving our country toward truly earning our reputation as the land of opportunity.
Lynsey Wood Jeffries
Chief Executive Officer
A version of this article appeared in the March 12, 2014 edition of Education Week as After-School, Summer Programs Make Critical Difference