A place for fun, community building and learning, a summer program can help address students’ academic and social-emotional needs following pandemic disruptions.
A new report, Summer 2022: How California schools are making the most of new increased state investments, released in January by the Partnership for Children & Youth, offers an overview of trends from the first full year of Expanded Learning Opportunities Program (ELO-P) implementation and recommendations for districts and the state around summer and year-round offerings.
California has allocated billions in ongoing funding to ELO-P. Before 2020, $783 million in state and federal investments went toward expanded learning, according to the report. In July 2021, the state invested $1.75 billion to develop ELO-P, which was established through Assembly Bill 130. By July 2022, ELO-P funding had increased to $4 billion with $5 million identified in state budget toward technical assistance, training and evaluation by county offices of education. By July 2025 the program will be fully funded at $5 billion.
“This expansion effort promises to provide much needed funding that districts can count on into the future to meaningfully close persistent opportunity gaps,” the report states. “Many districts are already rising to the challenge and offering expanded learning programs to students, especially those with high needs: low-income students, English language learners, and foster youth.” For the report, Partnership for Children & Youth utilized statewide data and conducted interviews with officials from nine school districts as well as community providers.
Under ELO-P, all districts that provide classroom-based instruction must also offer summer and/or intersession programs as well as after-school programming for TK-6 students. Summer and/or intersession programs must operate for nine hours daily for a minimum of 30 non-school days.
English learners, students eligible for free or reduced-price school meals and foster youth are prioritized, and collaboration with community partners is encouraged.
After program access is reserved for younger students, districts are able to use any remaining funds to serve older students.
“Most districts used ELO-P funds for summer programs for only TK-6th graders,” according to the report. Only San Bernardino City Unified School District funded high school after-school programs with leftover ELO-P funding.
Some districts, including San Bernardino City USD, have used ELO-P funding to expand existing summer programming supported by the state’s After School Education and Safety (ASES) Program or by the federally funded 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) Program. Others, including Fullerton School District, have opted to extend their ASES or 21st CCLC after-school programs to include summer.
Westminster SD was able to improve access to programs by reducing its reliance on fees while National SD expanded its programs from half to full days. Meanwhile, Galt Joint Union Elementary School District was able to replace expiring or exhausted funding streams, and Reef-Sunset USD and Willows USD created new programs.
“ELO-P enables more enrichment activities and the partnerships that make those activities possible. Despite challenges in staffing, ELO-P can enable competitive salaries and new materials to help attract and retain staff,” the report states.
This was made evident in San Bernardino City USD where CAPS Expanded Learning Director Ann Pearson noted that, “ELO-P has just been a blessing in our district … We were able to offer higher salaries for our youth leaders and site leads. It helps out our city, our kids, and our vendors and it’s easier to hire.”
For districts, the Partnership for Children & Youth recommends beginning to plan for summer programs and related staffing needs/wages as early as winter and including all essential partners in the planning process. Surveys could be deployed to students and parents who have previously participated in the program to find strengths and identify areas that could use improvement. Outreach to summer program participants should begin by early spring.
Districts may also consider:
- developing lesson plans to remove that burden from teachers and staff;
- providing joint professional development opportunities, including district staff and community-based organizations;
- leveraging county offices of education and the state System of Support for Expanded Learning to increase planning and training resources; and
- attempting to “design for and increase coherence across programs and staff that are integrated with school-day learning and wellness, including universal Pre-K, community schools, and the Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative.”
At the state level, officials should make a long-term commitment to fully fund ELO-P, providing equitable expanded learning for middle and high schoolers. The California Department of Education could also provide guidance and models on blending public funding and more.
“California is making a transformational investment in both summer and other expanded learning programs,” the report states. “These programs keep kids learning, offer opportunities that many students would not otherwise have, and provide safe spaces for children of working families. A continued commitment to the Expanded Learning Opportunities Program will nurture California’s kids to fulfill their dreams and bright futures.”