With only a few days before the Continuing Resolution funding the federal government expires on Wednesday, House and Senate appropriators unveiled the Fiscal Year 2014 (FY2014) Omnibus Appropriations bill last night. For the more than 8 million young people and their families that rely on afterschool and summer learning programs, the proposed Omnibus represents a step in the right direction. Most importantly, the majority of the FY2013 sequester cut to the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative is restored, and no language was included allowing the diversion of afterschool funds to other purposes. In addition, there are slight increases in other key funding streams that support afterschool programs.
Congress plans to pass an additional three day Continuing Resolution to allow time to consider and pass the FY2014 Omnibus bill. The Omnibus is a compromise between House and Senate appropriations committees and was made possible as a result of the budget deal struck between House and Senate Budget Committee Chairs last month, funding the government at $1 trillion through the end of September. Both the House and Senate must pass the Omnibus bill and the president must sign it before it becomes law.
While many students nationwide are excitedly awaiting their winter holiday break, for the 21 million children who rely on school breakfast and lunch as their primary source of nutrition, school holidays can lead to hunger pains. Since 2011, the Afterschool Meals Program offered through the USDA Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) has provided federal funding to afterschool programs operating in low-income areas to serve meals and snacks to children 18 and under during school holidays as well as after school and on weekends. A number of schools will offer meals during their winter breaks.
Other communities are coming together to provide students in need with a backpack of groceries to take home to their families and provide nourishment over the long school holiday. In Erie, Pennsylvania, more than 1,000 second- and third-graders, will receive five-pound bags of food to take home for the winter break. Coordinators with the Erie School District and Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania's backpack program know that these children will be without free school meals until they return to school on Jan. 2. In Hancock, Michigan, volunteers packed 6,000 meals into backpacks to ensure that 125 students in the area would have food for three daily meals over the 16-day break.
Earlier this month, the National Human Services Assembly (NHSA) released a new report, “Breaking the Cycle of Poverty in Young Families: Two-Generation Strategies for Disconnected Young Parents & Their Children.” The report, sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, studied 32 organizations and highlighted best practices for two-generation approaches to overcoming poverty.
More than1.4 million youth ages 15-24 are out of school, out of work and raising dependent children. Unless communities offer alternative pathways to connect these families with ladders of opportunity, many young families will not be able to achieve financial independence. Programs that use a two-generation approach simultaneously address the developmental needs of both young parents and their children, increasing the likelihood that both generations will have better long-term outcomes.
This week, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA)reached a two year budget deal. The compromise deal restores $63 billion of the harmful sequester cuts that have resulted in decreased federal support for a variety of education opportunities for young people, including support of afterschool and summer learning programs.
The budget deal, reached after weeks of negotiations following the government shutdown in October, restores almost two-thirds of the scheduled non-defense discretionary cuts in 2014, providing $45 billion split evenly between defense and nondefense discretionary spending. For 2015 the agreement adds $18 billion, again split evenly between defense and non-defense discretionary spending. The Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) provides much-needed certainty for FY2014 and FY2015 and paves the way for passage of appropriations bills through regular order, rather than through continuing resolutions and crisis management. While a deal has been struck between budget committee chairs, the full Senate and House must still pass the BBA and the president must sign it into law. It's important to note that initial reaction to the deal from both parties has been positive. If the deal fails, however, a full year continuing resolution with additional sequestration cuts will be the result, likely meaning a continuation of harmful sequestration cuts that are impacting children and youth.
This month we re-launched our effort to promote the Child and Adult Care Feeding Program (CACFP) At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program offered through the Department of Agriculture. Millions of young people that participate in afterschool programs every afternoon go home to food insecure households. The Afterschool Meals Program provides an opportunity to offer a nutritious, balanced meal to children to help them focus during the afterschool hours. Afterschool meals often sustain children until breakfast at school the next morning.
Since 2011, the Afterschool Meals Program has proven to be an effective way to reduce childhood hunger and promote a healthy childhood weight. In 2012, 16 million children (22 percent) under the age of 18 lived in poverty and were exposed to hunger.
If your afterschool program currently doesn't offer afterschool meals and you would like to learn more, click here to become an Afterschool Meals Champion. We look forward to connecting you with resources and tools to help you become an afterschool meals site or sponsor!
In late October former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger came to Washington, D.C., to shine a light on the importance of federal funding for afterschool programs. Through meetings hosted by leadership in both the House of Representatives and the Senate with both Republicans and Democrats, as well as a meeting with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and a stop at the new D.C. After-School All-Stars program, Gov. Schwarzenegger made clear the importance of afterschool programs in keeping young people safe and supported, inspiring learning for children and youth, and helping working families.
The focus of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s meetings on Capitol Hill was to express strong support for continued federal funding for afterschool programs through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative. The governor urged Members of Congress to find a separate funding stream for lengthening the school day or school year so that it doesn't compete with funding for afterschool programs. He also called for supporting the 21st CCLC program so that afterschool programs become an expectation, not an afterthought.
Last night Congress passed a bill based on an agreement struck by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that ended the the 16-day federal government shutdown and raised the debt ceiling, avoiding an international economic crisis.
After 16 days of the vast majority of the Federal workforce at home (90 percent of the Department of Education was furloughed), the bill reopens the government by providing funding through Jan. 15, 2014, at last year’s levels. For key federal funding that supports afterschool and summer learning programs, like the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative and Child Care Development Fund (CCDF), the bill means funding at last year’s levels despite increasing program costs and growing demand for quality afterschool programs. The agreement also leaves in place the sequester, which is expected to result in an additional 7.2 percent cut to federal non-defense discretionary programs on Jan. 15. Education advocates are hopeful that the conference committee established by the agreement will address the pending sequester cut. A final budget for FY2014 will have to be negotiated, voted on and signed by the president before the funding runs out on Jan. 15.
STEM, child care & federal policy filled the agenda when state afterschool networks came to Washington
Late last month, leaders from more than 40 state afterschool networks, including representatives from state education agencies, gathered for several days in Washington, D.C., for a national convening: “Expanded Learning Opportunities: STEM Programs and Systems.”
The convening, co-hosted by the Department of Education, the C.S. Mott Foundation and the Noyce Foundation, focused on creating positive STEM outcomes for more students through collaboration and cooperation among national, state and local partners. Sessions allowed network leaders and education officials to work together to consider how to leverage investments and actions to expand the availability of quality informal science in afterschool and impact more students across the country.
Deputy Secretary of Education Jim Shelton opened the conference with a well-received talk on the partnerships necessary to generate the best possible STEM outcomes in young people. Stating that learning occurring after school is just as essential as learning taking place during the school day, the deputy secretary demonstrated his understanding of the depth and power of informal STEM education occurring in quality afterschool programs.