Federal Budget Under Wraps, But Troubling Indications of Cuts to Afterschool

As congressional leaders and Obama Administration officials - including the President himself - worked well into the night on Friday, April 8 to negotiate a budget for the remaining months in Fiscal Year (FY) 2011, lawmakers made deals and agreed to billions of dollars in cuts.

But now, three weeks later, many of those cuts are not yet public.

The Department of Education has not yet released a full plan for how it will spend its budget for the period from now till September 30, but details are beginning to emerge and there are troubling indications of cuts to federal line items that afterschool programs - and the children and families they serve - rely on.

As part of the late-night April 8th agreement that averted a government shutdown, lawmakers agreed to a 0.2 percent across-the-board cut to all non-defense-related federal spending. That will affect 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), and other programs that support afterschool and education programs.

Beyond that, federal agencies have discretion as to how to spend the funding allocated to them. Each agency must submit a spending plan to Congress within 30 days of when the Continuing Resolution for the remainder of FY2011 was enacted, and those 30 days will not end until early- to mid-May.

The 21st CCLC - the chief federal funding stream supporting before school, afterschool and summer learning programs - was not mentioned by name in the FY2011 spending bill. Two other education funding streams that support afterschool programs are in the same situation: GEAR UP and TRIO.

"We have conflicting information about the Department's plans for 21st CCLC spending," said Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant. "There are reports that funding for the 21st CCLC initiative will be reduced by $10 million, in addition to the 0.2 percent across-the-board cut. If true, that would result in a cut of approximately $12.3 million. But we do not have confirmation, and the Department of Education recently signaled that we are unlikely to see final budget numbers until mid-May."

"The House of Representatives had passed a $100 million cut to 21st CCLC as part of H.R. 1, so we are watching closely, and intend to work with the afterschool community to register disapproval over any cuts to afterschool spending. At a time when the economy is starting to recover and more parents are beginning to find jobs, our children urgently need safe, supervised activities after the school day ends," Grant added. "We are urging lawmakers to remember that afterschool spending saves money and strengthens our workforce and our nation."

Some programs are explicitly mentioned in the FY2011 spending bill. The Child Care Development Fund, which includes funds for school-age child care, will be funded at approximately $2.2227 billion - a $100 million increase over FY2010 levels. Three of the Administration's priorities were also mentioned and received increases: Promise Neighborhoods was funded at $30 million, which is an increase of $20 million; Race to the Top was funded at $700 million; and Invest in Innovation (i3) was funded at $150 million.

In addition, at the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Americorps program is slated for a cut of $23 million, with Learn and Serve slated for elimination. The Justice Department will have to cut Juvenile Justice programs by $148 million.

At the same time that FY2011 spending levels are being revealed, Congress is working on a budget for FY2012, which begins on October 1, 2011. "We need afterschool supporters to speak out now more than ever," Grant said. "The future of our programs is on the line."

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This story originally appeared in the Afterschool Advocate (Vol. 12, Issue 4).

Click here to read the rest of this issue.