Op-eds are opinion articles 500 to 750 words in length. Most newspapers print such articles on the pages opposite their editorial page. View a sample Op-Ed.
Some tips about op-eds:
- Op-eds should emphasize the writer's opinion or experience and be of interest to the general public.
- Opinion page editors look for op-eds that advance the public discussion of an issue, that are interesting and compelling, and that come from interesting authors.
- Don't go over 750 words. Op-ed editors have so many articles submitted for their consideration that if you can't make your point in 750 words, they can afford to wait for someone who can!
- After you know what you want to write, you can call the op-ed editor to "pitch" the article to him or her. The discussion might reshape your op-ed idea somewhat, but will make it more likely to be printed. Don't be discouraged if the op-ed editor tells you they can't promise to print it. They can't, and it's their job to tell you so.
- Include a cover letter when you submit the op-ed to the editor. It should summarize the key points in one paragraph. Be sure your name and phone number are in the letter.
- Submit the op-ed by email or fax, depending on the editor's preference.
- Three or four days later, if you have not already heard back, call to see if the op-ed editor has had a chance to review the piece and decide its fate. If the newspaper rejects the op-ed, don't be discouraged. If there is another newspaper - daily or weekly - you are free to submit it to that paper. However, under no circumstances should you submit an op-ed to two newspapers in the same market at the same time. Newspapers deserve and will demand a "market exclusive" for an op-ed. Submit it to one outlet and, if they turn it down, move on to the next.
Too Many Children Lack Access to Afterschool Programs
By [your name]
Drive past an elementary school at just the right moment any weekday afternoon, as the school buses are warming up in the parking lot, and you'll hear it: the dismissal bell or buzzer. It's a sound that signals relief to many students, but it begins a period of worry for millions of working parents whose latchkey children have no adult-supervised activity awaiting them. As far as many parents are concerned, dismissal time begins a period of vast concern about their children's well being.
But for some lucky parents and their children, the bell is the beginning of something very different: an afterschool program that offers a vibrant and adult-supervised set of activities, ranging from help with homework and tutoring to field trips to athletics and exercise. For those parents and children, afterschool programs have become a regular and much-appreciated part of daily life. That's why, in the last decade, we've seen an explosion of afterschool programs across the land, many created with seed money from the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative - a stream of federal grant monies directed to individual afterschool programs by state officials.
The results have been overwhelmingly positive, at least judging from a growing mountain of positive evaluations of afterschool programs' impact on children's academic and social skills. And 2009 research on the reach of afterschool programs underscores that parents of children in programs are overwhelmingly satisfied with the services their children are receiving.
The 2009 data come from America After 3 PM: A Household Survey on Afterschool in America, a massive survey conducted for the Afterschool Alliance with support from the J.C. Penney Company, Inc that updates the 2004 edition of the study. Researchers found that fully 89 percent of parents of children in afterschool programs were either "satisfied" or "extremely satisfied" with the afterschool program their child attends. These parents know from experience that afterschool programs keep kids safe, help them learn, and relieve working parents of worries about their children's afternoon hours. So it's no surprise they're so popular.
Still, the survey also makes clear that we have a long way to go in meeting the need for afterschool. Fully 15.1 million kindergarteners through 12th graders in the United States take care of themselves in the afternoons, and more than a quarter of these children are in grades six to eight - the middle school years, which are fraught with peril. In fact, across the nation nearly twice as many children take care of themselves as attend afterschool programs. That's a big part of why the survey found that the parents of 18.5 million children say their children would participate in an afterschool program if one were available.
And there is the rub. In many communities, these programs simply are not available, during the school year or in the summer. The reason is money and, specifically, federal money. Several years ago, Congress and the President agreed on a roadmap for steady increases in federal funding for afterschool. They wrote it into the landmark No Child Left Behind Act, which President Bush signed into law in early 2002. That appears to be the last time anybody in Washington consulted the map, however, because the increases never materialized. As a result, funding for programs that would care for more than a million children has never been provided by the federal government.
Way too many children are left alone in the afternoons. If America's law enforcement community is right about the positive impact of afterschool programs on juvenile crime, if educators are right about how valuable afterschool is for kids' academic achievement, and if parents are right about how valuable afterschool is to the well-being of their families, we'll all suffer for the failure to fully fund afterschool.
That's why we should all do what we can to make sure our kids have the afterschool care they need, to make sure that one day, the dismissal bell will be welcome to parents and children alike.
[Your name] is [title] or [organization] [your organization's website's URL].