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Afterschool Policy Snacks
JUN
23
2016

POLICY
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Who are "opportunity youth," and why do they need targeted support?

By Jillian Luchner

photo by Ryan Aréstegui

Research tells us that the human brain doesn’t fully develop from its youth into its adult version until about age 24. This knowledge adds an important perspective to the modern focus on early childhood education as an essential component of child development. The prolonged growth of the human brain is a clear indicator that older children—especially those who may not have enjoyed quality care early in their lives—also deserve targeted support, and that programs that help these children are critically important.

Investing in "opportunity youth" is a win-win

There are currently about 6.7 million "opportunity youth" across the United States, or youth between age 16 and 24 who are disengaged from school and work (sometimes called "disconnected youth"). The Opportunity Index provides the number of these youth in each state, among other relevant statistics. Estimates place the tax loss of these outside-the-workforce youth to be $11.3 billion annually. Additionally, these youth disproportionately increase costs associated with crime, health and welfare, creating an estimated social cost burden of $37,000 per youth per year. Appropriate support for these youth can help reduce hefty societal costs while expanding options for these youth: a win-win situation.

The federal government is taking strides to support older youth development, especially focusing on opportunity youth. The 2014 reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA, formerly WIA), which encompasses workforce opportunities for all ages, provides funds to help older youth ages 14-24 engage in productive careers, and targets 75 percent of those youth funds to opportunity youth. The law contains an additional requirement that 20 percent of these funds be spent connecting youth to internships and work experience. Skills USA reports that 64 percent of youth make their career decisions based on their own experience and interests.

Also included in WIOA law is an innovative “Pay for Success” provision, based off the expectation of high economic returns associated with helping opportunity youth. The provision allows local workforce boards to allot 10 percent of their funding to programs in which government, non-profit, and for-profit entities take on the costs of helping these youth. These entities are reimbursed or provided with a performance bonus when they achieve an agreed upon outcome or measure of success, like a number of months of continuous, full-time employment.

Afterschool or summer learning program providers who already support at-risk youth should consider obtaining support via WIOA, through either the regular program model or pay-for-success model. WIOA funds can also be used to support certain populations of in-school youth. Community agencies and savvy programs can often “braid” funds between various youth dollars, such as those from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), as well as those from private investments, foundations, and local business. Performance Partnership Pilots provides an additional means of serving these youth through facilitating combining funding streams. WIOA provides $2.6 billion in state formula grants, and youth funds of about $830 million.

To see what opportunities may be available, you can connect with your local workforce investment or workforce development boards, the state and local decision-making bodies responsible for the use of WIOA funds. The boards in your area can be found by searching here.

JUN
21
2016

POLICY
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Add your comments to new draft regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act

By Jillian Luchner

In late May 2016, the Department of Education issued draft regulations on elements in Title I of our nation's new education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The 60 day comment period for the regulations will be open until August 1st, and your feedback is welcomed! The new law provides much more flexibility on school accountability and includes new indicators of student success and growth. Yet the overall goals of Title I of ESSA—academic achievement, graduation, school quality and student success—remain goals that are dramatically supported by afterschool programs.

Before adding your comments, it may be helpful for you to explore this comprehensive overview of the ESSA draft regulations.

See how afterschool factors in to various aspects of the draft regulations

Needs assessments: The Title I regulations, as proposed, provide many opportunities for collaboration between out-of-school time and the school day. Under the regulations, states, districts and schools must design and apply needs assessments for low-performing schools and, as a new addition, must look at how resources are allocated among schools. Parents, afterschool providers, and advocates can remind states and districts that identifying which schools provide enrichment and engagement activities for students (and which do not) is an essential part in this process and in understanding equity generally. Some afterschool state networks and some state child care offices are already working on mapping access to afterschool programs across their states. Additionally, while the law has changes, the previous national education law, No Child Left Behind, also included needs assessments, and some older resources on needs assessments may continue to be helpful.

Research based interventions: States and school districts will have the ability to create lists of evidence and research based interventions that support Title I goals and indicators. Because afterschool programs increase student success in attendance, homework completion, and discipline reductions, each state should thoughtfully consider adding these programs to their approved list of interventions. The Afterschool Alliance Evaluations Backgrounder is a good place to find research that provides the evidence base necessary to support afterschool and summer learning programs as key contributors to a variety of success indicators.

Consolidated state plans: States can combine plans for Title I with plans for other Titles (including Title IV part B for 21st Century Community Learning Centers) within the ESSA legislation as part of one overall or "consolidated" state plan. The proposed rule emphasizes that all plans must include “timely and meaningful consultation” with stakeholders. The proposed rule lists 13 specific groups that must be consulted, including community based organizations. As part of this process, state agencies must solicit input from the community, plans must be subject to a 30 day public comment period and plans must include reference to how the SEA (State Educational Agency) addressed the issues and concerns raised in public comment. All plans will be published on SEA websites and reviewed/revised, again with full stakeholder engagement, at least once every four years. All consolidated plans must coordinate with other federal funding streams such as Child Care and Development Block Grants, and Career and Technical Education, and must include a mechanism for performance management and technical assistance.

Now is a good time to ensure afterschool is at the table for these decisions and in these state plans.

JUN
8
2016

POLICY
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Speaker Ryan outlines "A Better Way" to tackle poverty

By Jillian Luchner

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Yesterday, June 7th, House Speaker Paul Ryan presented A Better Way: Our Vision for a Confident America, a new policy paper on poverty representing the recommendations on issues in welfare, workforce and education by the House Republican Task Force on Poverty, Opportunity and Upward Mobility.

webpage outlining the plan breaks the message on poverty alleviation into 5 main ideas:

  • Reward Work
  • Tailor Benefits to People’s Needs
  • Improve Skills and Schools
  • Plan and Save for the Future
  • Demand Results

The overarching philosophy of "A Better Way"

The plan emphasizes streamlining programs, noting that “today, 13 federal agencies run more than 80 programs that provide food, housing, health care, job training, education, energy assistance and cash to low-income Americans.” The plan asks for focus to be shifted to the individual rather than compartmentalized among bureaucratic offices, such that the foundation of aid becomes an individual’s goals, and the measure of success becomes an individual’s rise from poverty.

The plan suggests that, with the individual at the center, states, localities and communities become best positioned to determine, direct and coordinate supports for recipients of government services. In streamlining, government must pay attention to redundancies, waste, fraud and abuse, and coordinating data and services while maintaining individual privacy. Resources should be dedicated to evidence-based programs with histories of getting results.

No detailed funding plan is outlined; however, recommendations include support for funding measures such as increased use of vouchers for schooling and housing, social-impact financing, which encourages private investments toward solving public concerns and then reimbursing those investors who achieve successful outcomes for their expenses, plus a return. The plan also recommends tiered financing, which funds a preliminary testing of ideas, followed by a rigorous testing before scaling up what works, and increasing private access to credit through reducing regulations on community banks and credit unions.

JUN
7
2016

POLICY
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Cut to afterschool proposed in Senate LHHS Subcommittee education spending bill

By Erik Peterson

The FY2017 appropriations process started once again this week with the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee marking up and passing by a voice vote their FY2017 education spending bill today. The full Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to mark up the bill this Thursday, with the House Committee likely to tackle their own version of the bill later this month. The bill sets funding levels for all federal education, human service, health and labor programs—including the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative, which provides federal funds leveraged by local school-community partnerships to provide quality afterschool and summer learning programs.

While bipartisan (the first time a bipartisan bill has been passed out of the Subcommittee in 7 years, to be exact) the Senate LHHS FY2017 spending bill includes cuts to education and other programs that provide necessary supports to children and working families due to a spending allocation that was $270 million less than FY2016 and tremendous competing pressures for funding. It also must be noted that no “poison pill” policy riders were included in the bill, thus further ensuring bipartisan passage of the measure.

Proposal cuts afterschool by $117 million

With regard to key federal efforts that support afterschool and summer learning programs, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative was funded at $1,050,000,000—a cut of $117 million below the current FY2016 level of $1.166 billion. The proposed level is slightly above the level authorized in last year’s ESSA bill, however it represents about a 10 percent cut from the current funding level. If the Senate bill were to become law, approximately 117,000 children would lose access to quality afterschool and summer learning programs next year.

The Senate LHHS bill provides $161.9 billion in base discretionary spending, which is $270 million below the FY2016 level and $2 billion below the President’s budget request. The bill funds the U.S. Department of Education at $67.8 billion, a $220 million decrease below the comparable FY2016 level. In addition to 21st CCLC, funding levels for a number of other programs that support afterschool include:

MAY
31
2016

POLICY
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Finally! Presidential campaigns talk solely education issues

By Jillian Luchner

Last week, the Committee for Education Funding (CEF) held a Presidential Forum on May 26th at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. to focus on issues in education. The forum consisted of two panels moderated by journalist and former chief CNN political correspondent Candy Crowley. The event marked one of the most prominent opportunities thus far in the 2016 presidential race for campaigns to focus solely on presenting their education policy agendas.

The first panel included Ann O’Leary, Senior Policy Advisor to Hillary Clinton, and Donni Turner, Policy Advisor with Bernie Sanders' 2016 campaign. Though CEF invited and “strongly encouraged” Republican candidate Donald Trump’s campaign to participate, no representative was present. The two policy advisors on the panel, both representing Democratic candidates, began by explaining to Crowley that their education platforms were far more similar than different, but then went on to fine tune their particular candidate’s priorities and issues.

Presidential priorities made clear

According to Turner, higher education is the top focus of the Sanders agenda. His priority list also includes ensuring that educators are well-paid and highly-trained, as well as addressing child care concerns. Turner provided a list of these concerns, saying “afterschool programs are a top priority for [Sanders]” in order to give working parents choices. Turner stated that support for these issues “is important to [Sanders] because that’s what he’s hearing from families across the country because it’s important to them.”

O’Leary discussed Clinton’s focus on education “from birth to lifelong learning” with attention to both higher education and early learning, including Clinton’s belief that no American family should be paying more than 10 percent of their income on child care. O’Leary also focused on the achievement gaps and disparities between the resources and attention provided to children of different family income levels.

“It costs different amounts of money to educate different children,” said O'Leary in response to a question about whether money was the answer to supporting education. “You cannot ignore poverty as an indicator of how kids are,” she continued, suggesting that schools can provide “wraparound services” as a way to mitigate some effects of poverty.

MAY
26
2016

POLICY
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Child nutrition bill clears House Education Committee, yet raises major concerns

By Erik Peterson

On May 18, 2016, the House Education and the Workforce Committee, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), approved H.R. 5003, the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016. Introduced by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), the legislation reauthorizes and reforms federal child nutrition programs. The bill passed the committee by a partisan vote of 20 to 14. The bill would reauthorize the federal child nutrition programs, including the Child and Adult Food Care Food Program (CACFP) At-Risk Afterschool Meals program and the Summer Food Service Program; however, many of the proposed changes could result in children no longer being able to access the nutritious meals they need to learn and be healthy.

Among the general provisions in the bill of major concern to afterschool and child nutrition advocates:

  • Failing to address shortfalls in the summer food program (especially from an out-of-school time perspective). The streamlining provision in the bill does not allow nonprofit organizations and local government agencies (that are not schools) to operate the Summer Food Service Program year-round. Instead, sponsors receive the lower CACFP reimbursement rate, and fewer sites are eligible in order to qualify for streamlining. Rather than making it easier for providers to offer meals seamlessly throughout the calendar year, the proposed provision would result in fewer programs offering meals to children in need due to the limited eligibility and lower reimbursement rate. 
  • Significantly weakening the community eligibility provision (CEP). Community eligibility is a federal option in its second year of nationwide implementation that reduces administrative work and increases school lunch and breakfast access in high-poverty schools. The bill proposes to substantially reduce the number of high-poverty schools that are eligible to implement community eligibility, which would impact approximately 7,000 of the 18,000 schools currently participating in the program. 11,000 additional schools not currently participating would lose the option to implement community eligibility in future years.
  • Increasing verification requirements. The bill dramatically increases school meal application verification requirements in ways that inevitably would cause eligible students to lose access to free or reduced-price school meals. Under the proposal, the number of household applications to be verified would increase significantly for many school districts, creating paperwork burdens for schools and families. A disproportionate number of vulnerable families, such as those who are homeless, migrant, immigrant or have limited English proficiency, would fall through the cracks in the process and lose access to school meals even though they are eligible.
  • Block granting school meals. The legislation also includes a three state school meal block grant demonstration pilot to replace the School Breakfast, National School Lunch, Special Milk, and Team Nutrition programs. The funding would be capped and cannot exceed the amount a state received for the programs and administrative funding in fiscal year 2016. The funding for school breakfast and lunch is limited to the free and reduced-price reimbursements (eliminating about 29 cents per meal provided for other children) and takes away the additional six cents per lunch provided to schools in the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 for meeting the new federal nutrition standards. The states would have broad discretion to: determine which children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals and how they are determined eligible; decide the time of year that meals are provided; and abandon the current nutrition standards (meals are only required to be “healthy”).
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MAY
2
2016

POLICY
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Preparing tomorrow's workforce for college and careers is everyone's business

By Jillian Luchner

In earlier times, most employers bore the sole responsibility for hiring and training their staff. As the economy became more complex, governments started to realized that schools could help support workforce development by preparing students for in-demand careers in the local economy. Today, afterschool programs, museums, libraries and other community based providers are providing critical support in preparing the workforce of tomorrow.

Out of school time programs like Afterschool All Stars' CEO, Schools and Homes in Education (SHINE), and Afterschool Matters are introducing students to careers, developing employability skills, and providing spaces to innovate and practice the entrepreneurial skills employers demand. From organizing apprenticeships to giving students the resources to design robots, software and health devices, to providing career visits and guest speakers, these programs can play an essential part in preparing students for careers.

This year, Congress is considering reauthorizing the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2006 (Perkins CTE). The law, now 10 year old, provides funding for school districts to establish career pathways that coordinate school training with the needs of the local economy.

However, the current law does not explicitly mention community based providers as a valuable partner in preparing students. The update, which is now being considered, should. School makes up only about 20 percent of a student’s waking hours each year, and the opportunities to explore careers and develop skill sets extend far beyond the experiences of the school day.

The Afterschool Alliance has submitted recommendations on how the Perkins CTE law can be updated to expand opportunities for students, communities and employers. Congressional staff suggest the Senate draft CTE bill, led by a bipartisan effort of Senators Enzi and Casey, is in its final stages and will be released soon. In the House, majority staff are preparing for the bill led by Education and the Workforce committee chair Representative Kline to reach the floor by July, which means getting the draft, bill and markup completed by that time.

Preparing our students for the careers of the future is a big task, and it will require a broad spectrum of partners. The CTE bill, which has a possibility of passing this year, can help set the stage for greater collaboration.

APR
28
2016

POLICY
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New nutrition standards for afterschool programs released

By Erik Peterson

 
USDA photo by Lance Cheung

On April 22nd, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Kevin Concannon announced strengthened nutrition standards for food and beverages served to children in afterschool programs and day care settings at the annual conference of the National Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Sponsors Association.

School age children in participating afterschool programs, as well as young children in child care settings and adults in senior care, will now receive meals with more whole grains, a greater variety of vegetables and fruits, and less added sugars and solid fats. The science-based standards introduced in this final rule will elevate the nutritional quality of meals and snacks provided under the Child and Adult Care Feeding Program (CACFP) to better align with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and to be consistent with the meals children receive as part of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP). The At-Risk Afterschool Meals program, which provides meals to more than one million children each afternoon, falls under the CACFP guidelines.

In addition to afterschool programs, CACFP provides aid to child and adult care institutions and family or group day care homes for the provision of nutritious foods that contribute to the growth and development of children and the health and wellness of older adults and chronically impaired disabled persons. Through the CACFP, over 4 million children and nearly 120,000 adults receive nutritious meals and snacks each day as part of the care they receive.

This is the first major revision of the CACFP meal patterns since the program's inception in 1968, and will require meals and snacks provided through the CACFP to better reflect the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the nutritional issues facing young children and adults today. These changes are a meaningful first step in improving CACFP participants’ access to nutritious foods. The updated meal patterns also better align with the National Afterschool Association Healthy Eating and Physical Activity standards, which foster health and well-being practices in afterschool programs nationwide through science-based standards for healthy eating, physical activity and screen time.

The new standards were carefully designed to make significant, achievable and cost-neutral improvements to the nutritional quality of the meals and snacks served through CACFP. USDA focused on incremental changes that balance the science behind the nutritional needs of the diverse CACFP participants and the practical abilities of participating afterschool program providers, child care centers and day care homes to implement these changes. By setting an implementation date of October 1, 2017, the final rule provides ample lead time for centers and day care homes to learn and understand the new meal pattern standards before they are required to be in full compliance.

USDA will provide in-person and online trainings and is developing new resources and training materials, such as menu planning tools, new and updated recipes, and tip sheets, to ensure successful implementation of the new nutrition standards. Additionally, the Afterschool Alliance plans to hold webinars for afterschool program providers participating in the CACFP At-Risk Afterschool Meals program who will be impacted by the new meal pattern requirements.

Additionally, the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) will host a webinar "New Healthier CACFP Meal Standards: What you need to know" on May 9, 2016 at 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM EDT. Click here to register.

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