After School Programs a Waste of Money

, Spencer Irvine, 1 Comment

It seems like the $1.2 billion spent for America’s after school programs was a waste of money. At least that’s what Mark Dynarski concluded this month in an article for the Brookings Institute.

afterschool programs

Dynarski outlined how after school programs began with $40 million in funds, and how funding has increased since its inception in 1998. By 2002, Congress gave the program $1 billion in funding, so in four years, the program’s budget saw a 2,400% increase. But, was the rationale for the large budget hike based on measurable outcomes and improvements?

The author says no, and he was one of the researchers contracted by the Department of Education to figure that out back in 1999 when he worked for Mathematica Policy Research. Their research showed that “the program didn’t affect student outcomes.”

Based on that conclusion, did the Department of Education and Congress reduce spending? No. When President George W. Bush proposed a reduction in funding by $400 million, advocates for the program and then-governor of California, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger pushed back and spending was left as it was, Dynarski noted.

A follow-up review in 2006 agreed with the 1999 study, and the Department of Education even agreed with these findings. An additional federal study “found no effects on academic outcomes” and their tutoring and academic support programs “did not improve academic outcomes.” In Washington, D.C., they spend $4,500 per student and the results were mixed: math skills improved, but there was no improvement in reading comprehension, despite the program’s emphasis on that subject matter. Overall, these programs cost about $600 per student per year.

The federal government rationalized its colossal spending by surveying students on how after school programs helped them, which “hardly is a scientific basis for measuring program effects.” And, parents view it as a type of childcare, although it is a very expensive one for taxpayers. But, there is already a childcare program in place, which is a $5 billion grant called the “Child Care and Development Block Grant” that states receive.


One Response

  1. Michael Lee Pemberton

    April 3, 2015 12:16 pm

    How do you measure self-esteem? The self-fulfilling prophecy of intelligence tests results mitigate against some students benefitting from encouragement from teachers. Try as they might to avoid bias, every class has a “teacher’s pet” and a “goat”.
    It only took one teacher, Barbara, who realized that I was an underachiever with an above average IQ to convince me that I had value and greater potential. I had just assumed that passing grades were good enough, and that I would be following in my father’s footsteps. That wouldn’t have been an altogether bad thing, because my father was a Master Machinist and my grandfather had been a Millwright.
    Barbara did not single me out for preferential treatment; unless giving me more challenging assignments, in-class reports to nudge me out of my shell, more homework and the slight smile of approval when I did well. I went on to take the college entrance exams, completed the bachelors degree, and had a good career. This all resulted from a kind word and a little encouragement in-class and didn’t cost $4 billion. Barbara showed me that teaching was a calling, and not just another career.
    In my military career I was assigned as a technical instructor for three years at a school for Army tankers and applied Barbara’s approach in teaching recruits and in mentoring my apprentices when assigned to a regular unit. In the school I greeted each new class with “I am not here to teach you to drive, load and shoot a tank. I am training you to eventually become my successor. I will teach you everything I know that I can in the time we have together to the best of my ability.”
    I was the Senior Tank Instructor in charge of twelve experienced tank commander instructors and the training of approximately two hundred trainees each training cycle. I went on to become a Tank Master Gunner and a Platoon Sergeant, thanks in part to Barbara and like-minded public school teachers. Teachers who are in it for the money are no better than drug dealers. Head start and After School programs benefit greedy teachers more than students and indicates that these teachers are not performing their duties in the classroom.

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