The City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee County and Milwaukee Public Schools invest about $21 million per year in outside-of-school activities for youth, but the funds are not being tracked efficiently or used collaboratively, according to a new report by the Public Policy Forum.
The PPF compiled the report, “Show Me the Way: Making Sense of Youth Development Funding in Milwaukee” in cooperation with Beyond the Bell, a program of the Milwaukee nonprofit Center for Youth Engagement that aims to build effective methods among the city’s youth service providers, policymakers and funders. The report defines youth as individuals between the ages of 12 and 24.
In 2016, $4.6 million of outside-of-school funding was spent on academic development, almost $10 million was spent on physical development and $3.8 million was spent on vocational/workforce development. Just $859,000 went to arts and cultural development, while social/emotional/physical health promotion accounted for $1.3 million and $388,000 went to violence prevention/safety promotion.
Among the out-of-school programming being funded publicly are arts and cultural programs, teen pregnancy prevention workshops, college access centers, internships and athletics. Research has demonstrated after-school programs like these can improve students’ performance in school and encourage positive behavior, while reducing risk behavior such as violence and drug and alcohol use.
After several nights of unrest occurred in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood in August, the need for an analysis of funding for of out-of-school youth programming increased, according to Beyond the Bell. Based on the results of the report, the organization is calling for better tracking and coordination of public investment in positive youth development opportunities, and soon will launch an effort to better align the funding going to youth development programs.
“The Milwaukee Public Schools, Milwaukee County, and the City of Milwaukee invest about $21 million annually in programs and services aimed at promoting youth development outside of the school day,” said PPF Researcher Sue Moeser, the report’s lead author. “Yet, given that each governmental entity has significant financial challenges, it is important to consider how those investments are being coordinated, and to contemplate whether a collaborative effort to plan and synchronize both investments and programming might improve outcomes.”