Testimony of Ryllie Danylko, Senior Policy Analyst, before the Committee on Recreation, Libraries, and Youth Affairs

April 8, 2024
Testimony
Person Testifying: Ryllie Danylko
Title: Senior Policy Analyst, DC Action
Testimony Heard By: Committee on Recreation, Libraries, and Youth Affairs
Type of Hearing: Budget Hearing

Hello Chairman White, council members, and staff of the Committee on Recreation, Libraries, and Youth Affairs. Thank you for the opportunity to address the committee today by providing testimony regarding the FY25 budget for the Department of Parks and Recreation. My name is Ryllie Danylko, and I am the senior policy analyst for out-of-school time (OST) at DC Action. DC Action uses research, data, coalition building, advocacy, and a racial equity lens to break down barriers that stand in the way of all kids reaching their full potential. We are also the home of the DC Out-of-School-Time Coalition, which advocates for equitable access to OST programs for all youth and families in the District. 

In FY25, the Committee must ensure that funding for out-of-school time programs, summer camps, and grants for community-based organizations to provide recreational programming is preserved, and where possible, increased. This includes continuing to budget at least $4.2 million for OST programs, $428,000 for teen programs, and $6.4 million for summer camps (which were the funding levels in FY24). These programs are critical pieces of the District’s overall funding infrastructure that provides youth and families accessible, meaningful, and safe opportunities after school and in the summer. 

How youth spend time outside of the classroom can dramatically impact their social and emotional well-being, academic outcomes, college and career readiness, and community safety. But in the District, access to OST programs is inadequate and inequitable. This was made evident in the 2023 needs assessment report from the DC Policy Center, funded by the Deputy Mayor for Education. The report showed that OST subsidized programs in DC are currently only serving around 40% of our young people. In Wards 7 and 8, where the service gap is most acute, only 33% of youth who live in these wards participate in afterschool programs and only 35% in summer programs. Clearly, the District has a long way to go to achieve universal access to OST. Protecting DPR funding is one way to make sure these gaps don’t grow, while CBOs, government leaders, policymakers, and families work collaboratively toward a future where OST access is not determined by a family’s income, neighborhood, or whether their child has a disability.

The Recreation for ALL community grants that were first launched in FY23 provided more than $4 million of support to community-based programs, activities, and events that engaged youth, provided recreation opportunities, and promoted skill development. The grant program was continued in FY24 to provide funding to organizations to expand recreational offerings and provide residents in underserved communities with safe, high-quality events, programs, and affordable recreation opportunities. The mayor’s proposed budget for DPR includes a $1.5 million reduction in the “government subsidies and grants” line, which suggests the Recreation for ALL grants may be decreased from the FY24 levels. If so, the Committee must restore these cuts so that youth who benefitted from OST activities funded by the grants in the previous fiscal year can continue to do so.

As you know, District families also rely heavily on DPR summer camps to keep youth engaged and safe during the summer months. The latest performance oversight responses from DPR shared that “between Summer 2022 and Summer 2023, the number of families and individual children served and enrolled in camp increased,” and that the “number of families receiving reduced rate discounts on program registration grew by 184%, dramatically expanding the number of families receiving discounts.” While more specific data is needed about the demographics and geographic locations of youth and families being served, it’s clear that DPR must be adequately funded to continue this progress so that all families who want a spot in a summer camp for their children can get one. 

As we continue to learn more about the DPR budget today and in the coming weeks, I ask that you keep in mind the important role that OST programs play in the growth, development, and safety of the District’s young people. We must continue to fund these opportunities in FY25 and beyond.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify. I look forward to answering any questions during the hearing and in the coming weeks before the budget is finalized.