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Group Pushes for Funding to Improve Expanded Learning Programs

Programs such as the Pacific Ballroom are part of an initiative to improve extended learning for youth. (Courtesy of School's Out Washington)
Programs such as the Pacific Ballroom are part of an initiative to improve extended learning for youth. (Courtesy of School's Out Washington)
February 28, 2017

OLYMPIA, Wash. – A new legislative push is under way in Olympia to invest in the Expanded Learning Opportunities Quality Initiative so that a wide variety of after-school and summer youth programs can give kids the support they need.

School's Out Washington is looking for a $4 million investment from lawmakers so it can provide coaching, training, funding and technical assistance to 260 programs that serve more than 10,000 kids.

Heather Longhurst is the executive director of Pacific Ballroom Dance. She recently went to Olympia to speak to lawmakers about the initiative and how it can help programs of any type.

"It meets you where you are," she said. "So you can start where you are and identify where you are in your development as a program, and then grow from there and get better and better all the time."

So far, the expanded learning initiative has helped 50 programs in the state with one year of funding. School's Out Washington wants to reach underserved populations and prioritize dual-language speakers with the new investment. It hopes to use the investment to leverage the private sector to fund expanded learning programs as well.

The Chinese Information Service Center in King County also has been a part of the initiative and received training to improve its after-school programs for Asian immigrants.

Peggy Kwok, the youth development program supervisor for the center, says the choices for recent immigrants can be limited, especially for low-income families.

"They are not quite able to choose from a number of after-school program options for their kids," she said. "So, we are one of them, because we run our program in bilingual services. No parent would like to choose some bad or ineffective after-school program."

Kwok says CISC isn't a luxury for the students and parents her program serves - it's a necessity. She says parents were pleased to hear the program was receiving training and looking to improve itself.

"They think that we have been moving in the very right direction, and so they feel very trustful of our performance, especially our staff and all our services," she added.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA