Stimulus Guidelines Offer Opportunities for Afterschool

Newly issued government guidance for state and local use of federal stimulus dollars offers new opportunities for afterschool programs to secure much needed funding. In particular, the Department of Education's guidance on Title I funding indicates that school districts may apply for waivers to Supplemental Education Services requirements, allowing school systems greater flexibility in supporting afterschool programs with stimulus dollars.

The guidance, issued by the Department of Education on March 6, describes the process by which stimulus dollars will be divided among the states, how states secure their share of the funding, and the types of expenditures suitable for stimulus funds. The guidance specifically cites afterschool programs as one of several possible programs eligible for the $13 billion appropriated for Title I funding.

The guidance goes on to indicate that local education agencies (LEAs) will be allowed to seek waivers from current Supplemental Education Services (SES) requirements. The SES program requires school systems to provide parents of children in schools that have not met state student achievement targets with a list of local programs that would provide tutoring and other academic support. That list may include afterschool programs.

With a waiver, school districts could be allowed to use those funds to support other programs consistent with the overall objective of increasing academic achievement of low-income children. That might include more funding for afterschool programs, if districts so choose.

But the waiver mechanism raises concerns, as well. In a joint letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation Program Officer An-Me Chung, Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant, George Lucas Educational Foundation Executive Director Milton Chen, and Ron Fairchild, Executive Director of the National Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University, write: "The supplemental educational services (SES) set-aside is an important strategy for school improvement and expanding learning opportunities for the lowest-achieving students. While we believe that that program should be improved and expanded during the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we also believe services should continue in the meantime. By allowing waivers for SES, districts are being let off the hook from providing the lowest achieving students critical services outside of the school day.... In instances where SES waivers are provided, they should only be done with documentation of how the LEA will otherwise use its Title I American Recovery and Reinvestment Act [stimulus] funds to provide afterschool and summer learning opportunities in the district."

As described in the last issue of the Afterschool Advocate, the stimulus package includes several distinct funding streams that afterschool programs might be able to tap for support. They include a new State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF), additional funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) program, and more.

The Afterschool Alliance has created a special webpage to help afterschool programs navigate stimulus funding questions at www.afterschoolalliance.org/policyEconRecovery.cfm. The Department released guidance for stimulus funding under these programs, as well.

The Department of Education has promised further guidance on the use of stimulus funds within the next few weeks. The Afterschool Alliance will post updates on its website as they become available. The Department of Education's Title I guidance is available here. Guidance on the SFSF is available here. Guidance on IDEA is available here.



This story originally appeared in the Afterschool Advocate (Vol. 10, Issue 3).

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