SEATTLE - In Washington, kids have fewer summer learning options this
year - even though education experts consider the summer months critical
for many students, who need to stay caught up on reading and math
skills in order to succeed in the following school year. For kids from
poor families and in rural areas, the problem is funding: School
districts and community groups cut summer programs first when budgets
are tight. Many are funded with a combination of grants, donations and
fees to parents - all of which are affected by the economy.
Danielle Baer, communications and grants manager for School's Out
Washington, says some programs can only stay afloat if parents
share the cost.
"A lot of programs do charge a fee. That can become a barrier for
families who are low-income and don't have the resources to pay for
programs. In general, that's a challenge: Finding the funding sources to
support the programs and make them affordable for kids."
Baer also points to fewer summer meal programs, which go hand-in-hand
with learning activities. Only 11 percent of Washington kids who get
free or reduced-price meals during the school year also receive them in
"A lot of the sponsors of the summer feeding service program can't
afford to run the program; it runs at a loss for them. While they're
being reimbursed, it's not enough to make it sustainable, so they just
don't have the money to keep the summer food program running."
Baer says almost 80 percent of Washington parents in a recent survey
think some public money should be available for summer learning. The
survey was conducted in 2009 by the Afterschool Alliance.
According to the National Summer Learning Association, without
these opportunities, most kids fall two months behind in math, and
lower-income children fall two to three months behind in reading skills -
achievement gaps that are not always possible to overcome in the