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.
With the sequester now in effect, 3,400 AmeriCorps positions are expected to be cut. A recent story in the Baltimore Sun illustrates the concern that many afterschool providers have about the implications these cuts might have for their programs. At the Mother Seton Academy, a school for low-income children in Baltimore, AmeriCorps members serve in a number of vital roles, including helping out the afterschool program. As the school faces budget constraints and teachers are overworked, AmeriCorps members expand the capacity for schools and nonprofits to serve.
During a time of budget cuts, AmeriCorps members make all the difference in overcrowded classrooms, afterschool programs that keep kids safe or in tutoring programs that lower dropout rates. A recent blog post on Service Nation argues that the small living stipend offered to AmeriCorps members costs the country far less than the price of a teenager who drops out of school. With the wide range of services that AmeriCorps members offer, cuts to the program will undoubtedly have a large impact.
AmeriCorps currently engages more than 75,000 men and women at more than 15,000 locations including nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community- and faith-based groups across the country. During their year of service, AmeriCorps members help communities with a wide range of issues including disaster services, economic opportunity, education and healthy futures.
The president recently released his budget request for FY2014 and we wrote about the implications for afterschool in a recent blog post. The budget proposes a sweeping (and unprecedented) reorganization of federal STEM education investments—it consolidates or restructures 114 programs out of the existing 226 federal STEM programs. In the budget proposal, 78 programs are terminated and the funds from these programs ($176 million dollars) are redirected to other agencies, 49 programs are consolidated within agencies and 13 new programs have been proposed.
The $176 million from the eliminated programs would be split as follows:
- $100.3 million to the Department of Education for K-12 education programs
- $51.1 million to the National Science Foundation for undergraduate education and fellowship programs
- $25 million to the Smithsonian Institution for a new STEM engagement initiative
There are several places to get the full details of the president’s budget request for STEM education—the White House R&D budget site and the American Institute of Physics FYI analysis are good places to start.
Jeff Cole is the associate vice president of school-community partnerships for the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation and Network Lead for the Nebraska Community Learning Center Network.
As a first time participant in the Afterschool for All Challenge, I really didn’t know what to expect as we were filing into the Russell Senate Office Building. Having nominated Kristin Williams, Director of Community Initiatives at Omaha’s Sherwood Foundation, as Nebraska’s Afterschool Champion (a MUCH deserved recognition for all her work promoting afterschool programs in high poverty schools in Omaha and across the state), I knew state level advocates would be recognized for their work. I didn’t realize that a bipartisan group of senators and representatives would be joined by other national advocates and young people from nearby programs at the “Breakfast of Champions” to make such a strong case for why afterschool programs are so important for our nation’s future before heading to meetings on Capitol Hill.
I was especially hearted by Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) comments in support of S. 326, which strengthens the crucial federal 21st CCLC grant program, highlighting how important afterschool programs are for residents of her largely rural state. I was honored to have the opportunity to chat with and share my enthusiasm for rural afterschool programs with Sen. Murkowski as she was leaving the ornate and historic Kennedy Caucus Room.
I carried this enthusiasm for the importance of rural afterschool programs over into the meetings that I had with 4 of Nebraska’s 5 Congressional delegations after the “Breakfast of Champions.” Retiring Sen. Mike Johanns met with our group and reflected on his understanding of the importance of afterschool programs that he gained while serving as Nebraska’s governor.
We all know that after school and during the summer are a perfect time to get kids active and teach them healthy habits for life. Afterschool and summer learning programs offer a perfect complement to the school day and allow for creative partnerships between schools and community-based organizations to help improve the health of our communities.
Kaiser Permanente is offering a new tool, Thriving Schools, to help communities get active—it’s a great instrument that afterschool programs can adopt to help strengthen their partnership with schools, or to complement the physical activity programming they’re already doing. Thriving Schools is a comprehensive effort focused on creating a culture of health for K-12 students, staff and educators both during the school day and after. By promoting workforce health and student-focused interventions—such as improving snacks and meals and increasing opportunities for physical activity—Kaiser Permanente and its partners are working to fulfill the Institute of Medicine’s call for schools and afterschool programs to be “the heart of health.” Out-of-school-time providers will find it easy to adapt and use these tools in their own programs.
Kaiser Permanente has plenty of free ready-to-use tools and resources available on their website. One of our favorites is the Fire Up Your Feetinitiative, a partnership with Safe Routes to School National Partnership and the National PTA. Fire Up Your Feet encourages educators, students and their families to walk or bike to and from school—or on their way to a before- or afterschool program! Afterschool programs can use the initiative as a fundraiser—think about incorporating Fire Up Your Feet into your Lights On Afterschool celebration in October!
In addition to programming ideas like Fire Up Your Feet, Thriving Schools also offers concrete, simple ideas for small changes you can make in your program to promote healthy eating, encourage physical activity and to create a healthy learning environment. For example:
By Jen Rinehart
Some of the strongest champions for afterschool are city and town leaders. Whether they approach afterschool from the lens of keeping kids safe; helping working families continue to work; or supporting students’ learning, health and wellness, city leaders are often quick to see the value of afterschool programs in their communities.
Just in the first few months of 2013, city leaders’ enthusiasm for afterschool has been evident at several afterschool-related events. Starting off with St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman’s remarks at the release of the Expanding Minds and Opportunities Compendium in early February, where he spoke about how afterschool has been a key issue for him as mayor. Mayor Coleman and several other mayors, including Afterschool Alliance board members Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price co-authored an article for the Expanding Minds and Opportunities Compendium in which they said:
“Time and time again, we have seen how a high-quality afterschool program can change a young person’s life and how such programs can have a positive ripple effect on families and neighborhoods.”
Fortunately, The Wallace Foundation recognizes the important role that mayors and city leaders play in supporting quality afterschool and has been investing in city systems for years. On Feb. 21 and 22, nearly 400 leaders from 57 cities came together in Baltimore to discuss how to better coordinate efforts to support the availability of high-quality afterschool programs. The Better Together: Building Local Systems to Improve After-School Conference focused on the role of afterschool systems, reaching youth most in need, financing afterschool systems and using data to drive continuous improvement. A summary of the event and links to related resources are now available courtesy of the Collaborative for Building After-School Systems, a co-sponsor of the convening.