10/25/2012 04:45 pm ET Updated Dec 25, 2012

A Proposition To Educate The Whole Child

With the election just days away, the fate of the White House, key senate races and laws will soon be determined. Just like other election years we've heard a lot of rhetoric and controversy about the same old issues our two party system tends to drag out of the political closet every four years. Quite frankly, I'm tired of these discussions and think they are a ploy to avoid dialogue about real issues, like the crisis in public education across the country.

Never before in the history of our nation have we seen so many households where nobody is home and children are left to raise themselves. In homes with motivated parents, many of them have three, and sometimes four, jobs these days. In less fortunate circumstances, many of America's children come home to an empty house and an empty refrigerator.

Despite this reality, we continue to see dramatic cuts in funding for after-school programming at the state and federal level. For the first time in almost 25 years, LA's BEST, the after-school enrichment program in partnership with LAUSD, is facing the closure of some of its programs. LA's BEST serves 28,000 children every single school day and, for many of these kids, this is the one window of time in their day where they get help with their homework and where they have the opportunity to get their social and emotional needs met.

I believe this lack of support for children is because of the misperception that high quality after-school programs are really just publicly funded babysitting programs. For those of us who had the benefit of being raised in families where dinner on the table every night was an assumption or who, as parents, were Brownie troop leaders and soccer coaches, it's almost impossible to imagine being a child who doesn't have anyone to help them with their homework.

As a board member for LA's BEST since 2007, I have seen first-hand that this personal interaction with an educator is a critical piece of child and youth development. It is the place where kids learn they are smart, athletic or creative. Most importantly, for many of these children it is the place where they are taught that their feelings matter and that they have value as human beings.

It's incredible that these few hours after the school bell rings spent nurturing the whole child -- the cognitive and the emotional -- produce such life altering results. The children who attend on a regular basis are thirty percent less likely to be involved in crime and twenty percent less likely to drop out of school. When you consider that LAUSD has the highest drop out rate in the nation, this is really something.

On Election day Propositions 30, 38 and 39 will decide the future of LA's BEST and after-school programs all over the state of California. While educators in our state galvanize their voices and messaging, our children and youth vote every day. Across Los Angeles, they vote with their feet. They cast their votes in favor of supporting after-school programming by showing up every day to school and increasing regular attendance and remaining committed to forging brighter futures for themselves.