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Afterschool Policy Snacks
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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learn more about: Advocacy Budget Congress Nutrition
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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learn more about: Nutrition
APR
27
2016

POLICY
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Child nutrition reauthorization bill introduced in the House

By Erik Peterson

On April 20th, Representative Todd Rokita (R-IN), chairman of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education introduced a House child nutrition reauthorization bill on behalf of the majority on the House Education and Workforce Committee. 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:

  • 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.
  • 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. 

In contrast, the Senate child nutrition reauthorization bill that passed the Senate Agriculture Committee earlier this year would instead streamline summer and afterschool meal coordination in a manner that would allow afterschool meal sites to choose to operate year-round through the Summer Food Service Program. This will allow sponsors to keep an adequate reimbursement rate, maintain eligibility, operate one program rather than two, and significantly reduce duplicative paperwork and confusing administrative rules protecting the new school meal nutrition standards that are improving our children’s health and the school nutrition environment. The Afterschool Alliance has strongly recommended such a provision.

The House bill could be marked up by the House Education and the Workforce Committee in the coming weeks. You can voice your opinion on the bill to your representative via our action center

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learn more about: Congress Health and Wellness Nutrition
MAR
25
2016

POLICY
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Members of Congress and national organizations pledge support for boosted afterschool funding

By Erik Peterson

While the House of Representatives is now in recess until April 12, the appropriations process continues as appropriations subcommittee staff start working on drafting spending bills. A challenge for appropriators will be meeting the needs of children and families given the constraints of lower spending levels and the pressure of potentially more spending cuts as a result of a pending House Budget Resolution for FY2017. Funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative is at risk following the president’s proposed $167 million cut to the program announced last month.

House and Senate appropriations committees have begun holding hearings on the FY2017 spending bills, including a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) hearing on March 22, featuring testimony by Education Secretary John King. Representatives Cicilline (D-RI) and Barletta (R-PA) are circulating a “dear colleague letter” calling on appropriators to fund 21st CCLC at $1.3 billion for FY2017.

In the Senate, a full quarter of sitting Senators signed a similar "dear colleague letter” organized by Senator Boxer (D-CA) and addressed to Senate Appropriators to fund 21st CCLC at that same increased level. 21st Century Community Learning Centers play a vital role in communities across the nation in providing out-of-school time services to students and families through unique collaborations between schools and community based organizations, which provide a balance of academic and social and emotional interventions to students in need.

A wide array of national, state and local organizations also expressed support for funding 21st CCLC this week by uniting to send a letter to House and Senate appropriators in support of $1.3 billion for 21st CCLC. Signees to the letter include Americans for the Arts, the American Library Association, the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, After-School All-Stars, the Association of Children’s Museums, the Association of Science-Technology Centers, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Camp Fire, Girl Scouts of the USA, Lutheran Services in America, MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Council of Youth Sport, the National Farm to School Network, Save the Children, United Way Worldwide, YMCA of the USA and dozens more.

Make your voice heard, too—take action now.

Individual afterschool advocates are also weighing in on the need for additional federal funding for afterschool programs, having sent more than 210 emails to Members of Congress this month. There is still time to take action and make your voice heard: contact Congress via email, Facebook or Twitter to express support for federal afterschool funding as part of the FY2017 appropriations process.

MAR
24
2016

POLICY
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Guest blog: Fun summer programs are just around the corner!

By Jillian Luchner

Our friends at the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) just posted some great resources for the out-of-school time field. The NSLA's Funding Resources Guide outlines funding opportunities for summer programs, and a new blog post (featured below) explores the Department of Education’s recent dear colleague letter on using federal funds for summer learning.

Written by Rachel Gwaltney, Director of Policy & Partnerships at NSLA.

How do states fund summer learning?

On February 25, 2016 the U. S. Department of Education issued a dear colleague letter to chief state school officers clarifying how certain federal funds can be used for summer learning. The Department encouraged states to work closely with local education agencies (LEAs) and schools to ensure budgets and plans reflect funding for summer activities.

The letter calls out a few specific Elementary and Secondary Education Act funding streams that are a good fit for summer programming.

  • Title I Part A funds may be used to support summer school for eligible students, for students in Title I schools operating schoolwide programs, or for students identified as most at risk of failing to meet academic achievement standards in Title I schools operating targeted assistance programs. The Department suggests that LEAs may use these funds for the academic component of summer school and partnership with community-based organizations for non-academic enrichment.
  • Title I Part A funds may also be used for summer transition programs to help prepare eligible students for the upcoming school year, such as an eighth to ninth grade bridge program, or for early preparation for advanced academic courses.
  • Title IV Part B authorizes the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program, providing grants for academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours, particularly for children attending high-poverty and low-performing schools. These funds are available to schools, community-based organizations, and other partners. The Department encourages states with leftover funds beyond current grants to focus on expanding or enhancing current programs in the summer, with a focus on programs with proven performance or evidence-based practices.
MAR
4
2016

POLICY
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Child care law update allows states to streamline services

By Jillian Luchner

As the new child care law for working families, The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) of 2014, gets put to practice, state agencies should be on the lookout for avenues of coordination with other funding streams. An Information Memorandum (IM) put out by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) suggests ways in which state agencies can specifically coordinate between CCDBG funds (also known as Child Care Development Funds - CCDF) and funds used in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, stating:

“We encourage CCDF and TANF Lead Agencies to jointly review policies, procedures, and practices in both child care programs, including transitions from TANF to CCDF child care and to identify opportunities for improved services and service delivery.”

CCDBG and TANF already have areas of overlap. States can use their TANF funds directly on childcare, and they can also transfer up to 30% of TANF funds into the CCDBG program. The IM suggests, among other ideas, that states funding childcare out of TANF funds should look for ways to include those child care providers in the requirements for childcare providers included in the new CCDBG law.

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learn more about: Budget Congress Working Families
MAR
3
2016

POLICY
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ESSA: A Q&A for the afterschool field

By Jillian Luchner

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) officially replaced No Child Left Behind (NCLB) as the guiding, major federal education “law of the land” on Dec. 10th, 2015. However, new laws require time to phase in and transition. As policy and procedures shift from NCLB to ESSA, there are many questions which need to be answered. The process of defining answers has already begun.

The Afterschool Alliance has used the tools and resources issued by the Department of Education to create an answer sheet of Frequently Asked Questions for the Afterschool Field. Most questions surround the 21st Century Community Learning Center section of the law (Title IV B), which included some changes and new language.

One thing seems clear for now: the 2016-2017 school year will still continue under the NCLB requirements until the transition is complete. This means that the new requirements and policies under ESSA will not occur until 2017-18. (There are a few specific changes important mainly only to school and district administrators on issues such as teacher preparation and reporting on school progress).

As the implementation of the law is still a work in progress, not every question can be answered at the moment, and we will continue to update the field as we learn more.

Frequently asked questions from the afterschool field include:

  • What happened to 21st CCLC in the law?
  • Where can I find the law?
  • What happens to current grants and grantees?