Before you know it, the 2010 elections will be here. The right to vote and to let your voice be heard, is a right that many people take for granted. That is unfortunate, because if we do not exercise this right, it will someday atrophy and no longer be available to us. This year’s election can be defining for the world of after-school, especially in California. It is imperative that our elected officials represent our point of view and the viewpoint of millions of others across the state and the nation. In a conversation with the campaign offices of both Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman, the response to the question about a position on after-school, was “the candidate doesn’t have one” followed by if there is enough interest the “candidate will have one”. We’re talking about something that matters to those of us in the field and it is a shame that there is “no opinion”.
The AfterSchool Alliance, a non-profit that works for after-school programs in Washington DC, stated in an article entitled: Action Needed, “The Afterschool Alliance is encouraging the afterschool community to reach out to federal lawmakers to remind them that working families and communities need afterschool programs. Now more than ever, we need the community to reach out to lawmakers with messages about the need for more quality afterschool programs," Grant said.” Jodi Grant is the chief in charge of the Alliance and has her finger on the pulse of the nation’s Capitol.
Grant is absolutely correct. This is not the time to be silent. It is the time to stand up and be counted. After-school is making a difference in the lives of children and youth across the country. We need to let our legislators know this.
While in the perfect world we would be supporting and voting for afterschool champions, in this less than perfect world, it is essential that we invite legislators—supportive or reluctant-- to visit our programs so that he/she can learn about the way afterschool programs are operated. Take time to educate the invited legislators. Remember, many legislators are totally unaware of how many programs are in their District. Set up media coverage (even if it is tentative), and let your Representative know how important it is to have his/her afterschool support.
Learn about each candidate in advance. Do your homework. Check out the position of each candidate and each party, and then make a positive choice for a representative who is supportive of after-school. Every voice makes a difference. Stand up for the work that you are doing in after-school and showcase and share our overwhelming value.