Budget Hearing Testimony of Ryllie Danylko, Youth Policy Analyst, before the Committee of the Whole

April 5, 2023
Testimony
Person Testifying: Ryllie Danylko
Title: Policy Analyst, DC Action
Testimony Heard By: Chairman Mendelson
Type of Hearing: Budget Hearing
Topic of Testimony: Budget Oversight Hearing for Education Agencies

Good morning, Chairman Mendelson and members of the Committee of the Whole. Thank you
for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Ryllie Danylko and I am a policy analyst with DC
Action, a member of the Fair Budget Coalition and home of the DC Out-of-School Time
Coalition. DC Action uses research, data, and a racial equity lens to break down barriers that
stand in the way of all kids reaching their full potential. Our collaborative advocacy initiatives
bring the power of young people and all residents to raise their voices to create change. We are
also the home of DC KIDS COUNT, an online resource that tracks key indicators of child and
youth well-being. I am testifying today about the proposed Fiscal Year 2024 budget for
out-of-school time programs.

Afterschool and summer programs are critical to the healthy growth and development of young
people, providing academic, social and emotional, mental health, and numerous other benefits.
They are also one of the most important investments we can make in keeping youth safe
outside of school hours, in a time when gun violence is a growing concern. When Mayor Bowser
took office for her third term earlier this year, she called for creating “the most robust free before
and afterschool programs in the nation.” The mayor’s proposed budget for FY24, which she and
others have referred to as a “down payment” on that pledge, is a starting point on the road to
universal OST access – and we are asking the Council to preserve the proposed investments.
We are also asking the Council to do more for the District’s young people, and add an additional
$5 million to the OST Office budget for general operating expenses of Learn24 grantees. The
timing is right for bold and targeted investments in OST, with new data showing that despite a
10% increase in OST participation since 2017 (when the Office of Out of School Time Grants
and Youth Outcomes was created and the last OST needs assessment was conducted), DC is
far from meeting the need.

The coalition has spoken with many Council members who have shared their support for
afterschool and summer programs and the need for investing more in OST. In their budget
request letters to the mayor, Councilmembers Allen and Parker recommended a $10 million
increase for OST; Councilmembers Nadeau and White recommended a $25 million increase;
Councilmembers Henderson and Pinto also requested unspecified increases for OST. We are
asking these Councilmembers to follow through on their requests and invest more in afterschool
and summer programming. We are asking the other Council members to listen both to the data and the stories you are hearing today from youth, parents, and youth advocates, and address
the urgent need for more OST opportunities with an additional $5 million.

New data shows OST capacity outpaces need and access is not equitable.

New data from the forthcoming OST needs assessment conducted by the DC Policy Center on
behalf of the Deputy Mayor for Education shows that afterschool programs in DC currently have
the capacity to serve less than half – just 41% – of public school students in the District. For
summer programs, there are enough spots for just 35% of DC youth to participate. The numbers
also show that we are not doing enough, in particular, for youth East of the River, where
elementary school aged youth have fewer afterschool seats within a mile of their home than
youth across the District on average. There is a clear connection between race and OST
access, given that 60% of public school students who are Black live in Wards 7 and 8. The
District must not only invest more resources in OST, but must also concentrate resources to
achieve racial equity.

Further, the study shows that to reach universal coverage for public school students, DC needs
to add more than 52,000 spots in afterschool programs, and another 57,000 spots in summer
programs. The mayor’s budget only proposes adding 1,250 spots through new OST Office
funding, 360 spots for summer camp for youth with special needs through DPR funding, and an
unspecified number of new seats through an additional $2.95 million DPR investment. These
proposed investments are a step in the right direction. However, they fall short of the $10 million
increase that advocates and some Councilmembers have requested for OST. An additional $5
million for OST could add spots in afterschool and summer programs for at least 2,000 more
young people.

We ask the Council to preserve the $5 million investment in the OST Office for the My
Afterschool DC initiative, add $5 million to the OST Office budget, and ensure that new
funding is used to expand OST access.

The mayor has proposed the My Afterschool DC system as a “one-stop shop” for OST
programs, which will be piloted in priority elementary schools based on data from the OST
needs assessment and which will include $3.1 million in new grant funding to add spots in
programs for elementary students. My Afterschool DC could help connect families with
programs that meet their needs and match their children’s interests. However, the OST Office
must ensure that they are engaging with stakeholders around the development of this initiative.
There are many unanswered questions around the development of My Afterschool DC,
including what programs will be included, how it will support parents and youth with program
registration, and whether the proposed new grant funding would require the development of new
grant competitions rather than bolstering existing programs. We need to make sure to get this
right, and urge the Council to prioritize oversight of this new initiative, especially given recent
challenges with on-time payment of grants, background check delays, and other administrative
hurdles that grant recipients have faced.

How DC spends public dollars for OST is a crucial part of the strategy for OST expansion. It’s
important for as much new funding as possible in both this budget and in future budgets to go
directly toward benefitting young people, with an emphasis on equitable access.

To this end, the $3.1 million in new grant funding (along with the additional $5 million we are
recommending) should be used to:

● Addresses the need for more general operating expenses, which allow programs to
scale up and serve more youth;

● Increase maximum awards for small nonprofits from $25,000 to $75,000 to better
support grassroots, community-based nonprofits as they face rising costs; and

● Create more OST opportunities in parts of the District where the need is the greatest,
based on findings from the OST needs assessment.

We also ask the Council to preserve the proposed $6.8 million investment in the Special
Education Enhancement Fund (SEEF), a portion of which is earmarked for 100 additional
out-of-school-time slots for children with disabilities.

The mayor’s proposed education budget includes some promising and long overdue
investments in making OST more inclusive and accessible for youth with disabilities and special
needs. Youth with special needs and disabilities deserve the same access to high-quality,
affordable OST opportunities as their peers. Yet parents continue to report difficulties in finding
programs that have the necessary accommodations, training, and resources to serve their
children with special needs or disabilities. This investment, along with the passage of the OST
Special Education Standards and Inclusion Amendment Act of 2023, can help move DC toward
a more inclusive OST sector.

We thank the Council for your ongoing support of OST programs, and for scheduling a public
hearing about OST this summer. To achieve universal OST access, the District needs a
long-term funding strategy that the Council, the Mayor’s Office, the OST Office and all education
agencies that support OST, families, and youth, must have a voice in creating. The DC OST
Coalition is also prepared to be a partner in this work.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me using the information below.

Sincerely,
Ryllie Danylko
Policy Analyst
DC Action
202-798-1470
rdanylko@dckids.org