While Congress is currently engaged in debate over immigration policy and the 2013 farm bill, two other policy issues are waiting patiently in the wings for their chance in the spotlight. There is a possibility that the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the House Education and the Workforce Committee will mark up their own versions of Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bills in June. At the same time, progress is slowly being made by the Appropriations Committee staff in both the House and the Senate on FY2014 spending bills. Now is a great time to weigh in on both of these issues:
- Contact your senators and representative to encourage them to support afterschool and summer learning as part of ESEA by co-sponsoring the Afterschool for America’s Children Act, S. 326. This bipartisan bill will enhance the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative by strengthening school-community partnerships among other improvements.
- Funding for 21st CCLC and the Child Care Development Fund remain critical. Contact your senators and representative to express how sequestration and the economy have impacted access to afterschool programs in your community. Call on them to support funding for afterschool and summer learning programs in the FY2014 appropriations process.
Thank you for taking action on behalf of the 18 million children who would be engaged in afterschool programs this afternoon if a program were accessible to them.
From Alabama to Washington state and places in between, afterschool programs are embracing the USDA Child and Adult Care Feeding Program’s (CACFP) At-Risk Afterschool Meals program. This spring, hundreds of afterschool programs are providing nutritious meals at no cost to those children who need them most. With summer around the corner, providers are also taking part in the Summer Food Service Program to ensure young people have the nourishment they need when school is out. Here are a few examples from around the country:
- In Huntsville, Alabama, and the surrounding area, children will be able to receive three meals per weekday during the summer as part of Huntsville City Schools’ new Summer Feeding Program. Young people under the age of 18 will be able to enjoy up to three meals per day at no cost at 10 area schools through the Summer Food Service Program. Summer learning programs will be offered at most of the schools allowing students to nourish both minds and bodies.
- The Albuquerque Journal recently reported on a number of schools in Albuquerque, New Mexico, including Kirtland Elementary School, that started serving a meal as part of their afterschool program.
- The Safeway Foundation is partnering with Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland to develop community- and clinic-based programs designed to reduce the burden of childhood obesity. The program seeks to fund nonprofit organizations with innovative programs to address childhood obesity. The goals of the program are to empower innovative programs to expand and enhance services, increase capacity, and/or incorporate new strategies to support healthy body weights among children and/or adolescents; evaluate the impact of existing programs; and identify promising approaches that could be replicated, adapted, and implemented in diverse communities nationwide. Applicants must be 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, or have a fiscal sponsor that is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The applicant does not have to be affiliated with a healthcare facility or clinic. Applicants must be based within 10 miles of a Safeway store (with some flexibility for regions with low-density stores). Proposed programs must use an inter-disciplinary model that includes at least one partnership with a community, clinic, business, and/or school. Initially, the Safeway Foundation is committing $2 million to support about 15 one-year awards. The amounts awarded may range from $3,000 to a maximum of $100,000 depending on the specific needs of the project. The majority of awards will be within the range of $40,000 to $75,000. The complete Request for Proposals and the online application form are available at the Safeway Foundation website. Applications are due May 15, 2013.
- Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK) recently extended the deadline to May 3, 2013, for their School Grants for Healthy Kids for the 2013-2014 school year. Around 400 schools will be awarded funds that will range from $1,000 to $5,000 with significant in-kind contributions from AFHK in the form of people, programs, and school breakfast and physical activity expertise. AFHK will also provide schools with management expertise and support to develop strong alternative and universal breakfast or physical activity programs. Award amounts will be based on building enrollment, project type, potential impact, and a school's ability to mobilize parents and students around school wellness initiatives. Grants are available in select states. Note only schools are eligible to apply. The Physical Activity grants provide funding for facilities and equipment for recess, playgrounds/play-spaces, classroom energizers, physical education, intramural and/or before- and afterschool programs that introduce underserved youth populations to the value of an active lifestyle. Learn more through Action For Healthy Kids.
As summer learning program providers gear up for the summer months, now is the time to finalize arrangements for offering summer meals to participating children. The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provides at least one healthy meal at no cost to children who rely on free and reduced price school meals during the academic year. While the SFSP reaches many eligible children, the need is much greater. During summer 2011, only 1 in 7 children who were eligible for free or reduced price school lunches participated in the SFSP.
In an effort to better understand how summer learning providers feed participating children, please complete a short summer food survey, available here. The survey closes April 30, and findings will be made available this summer.
It's not too late to learn how to become a Summer Food Service Program sponsor or site.
Today the president released his budget request for the upcoming 2014 fiscal year, which begins this October. With regard to support for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative, the president requested $1.25 billion—reflecting an increase of $100 million from FY2012 levels (pre-sequester levels). As was the case in his budget request last year, the president proposes to radically change 21st CCLC to a competitive grant at the federal level as well as prioritizing 21st CCLC grant funding for new purposes including adding time to the traditional school day or year, and for teacher planning and professional development.
In a challenging budget environment in which many programs face consolidation or elimination, the proposed increase in 21st CCLC in the budget request demonstrates the importance and value of expanded learning opportunities. Unfortunately, in the budget documents and most notably in the budget justification, the president makes the preference for expanded learning time (ELT) clear by indicating that unless ESEA is reauthorized before FY2014 begins, the Administration will request authority to use the $100 million increase for competitive grants to support ELT models.
The Afterschool Alliance supports 21st CCLC funds being directed to high-quality afterschool, before-school and summer learning programs that focus on hands-on, engaged learning that complements and enhances but does not replicate the traditional school day. While not mentioned in the president’s budget, the Afterschool Alliance feels strongly that 21st CCLC funding should continue to support the partnerships between schools and community- and faith-based organizations that help children improve academically, socially and behaviorally while parents are at work. For more information on expanded learning, see our expanded learning resource page.
For the first time in more than four years, both the Senate and the House have passed budget resolutions. While budget resolutions in Congress don't have the force of law and largely serve as visionary documents or blueprints, they do determine the amount of money the appropriations committees will have to spend on discretionary budget items for the upcoming 2014 fiscal year that begins on October 1.
The budgets that passed are a study in contrasts. The House budget represents a significant cut to non-defense discretionary programs like education funding, while the Senate version has some cuts but also prioritizes some discretionary funding like child care and education, which is offset in part by new revenue. Crucial discretionary investments include things like afterschool and summer learning through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative, child care assistance, special education services and help for low income students through Title I. From 2010 to 2012 discretionary investments for children have already been cut by $2 billion dollars, and they are expected to drop further in 2013.
The House budget extends harmful sequestration cuts that could cut investments to kids by more than $40 billion over 11 years. These cuts fall heavily on investments in education, early childhood and children’s housing. It also cuts non-defense discretionary spending by an additional $650 billion over 10 years by shifting all the scheduled cuts in defense spending onto non-defense areas. Applied proportionally, these additional cuts could cost kids another $72 billion. Finally, the House version cuts all non-defense discretionary investments by nearly $1 trillion.
The Senate budget resolution eliminates sequestration and restores all cuts currently in effect. This alone would restore more than $4 billion in investments for children and youth for Fiscal Year 2013 including restoring afterschool supports to the 56,000 children slated to lose those programs this fall. The Senate version further lowers non-defense discretionary spending caps by $150 billion. Applying this reduction proportionally, this would result in a $17 billion reduction in funding for children’s initiatives. However, the budget proposal emphasizes the importance of early education, child care, child nutrition, as well as other areas suggesting the intent to protect critical investments in children. During the budget debate on the Senate side, Sen. Boxer sent a strong signal on the importance of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative by authoring an amendment in support of this valuable afterschool and summer learning program. While the amendment was not voted upon due to procedural issues with the budget process, the Senate remains in strong support of afterschool programs, with Sens. Murray and Harkin expressing their support for the amendment as well.
The president is expected to release his budget on April 8.