The Census Bureau’s new report citing a lack of change in household income and the poverty level from 2011 to 2012 may not sound like terrible news, but Ron Haskins, co-director of the Brookings Center on Children and Families and Budgeting for National Priorities project, may have said it best: “The poverty and income numbers are a metaphor for the entire economy…Everything’s on hold, but at a bad level.”
According to the report, in 2012 there were 9.5 million families living in poverty. Looking at children under the age of 18, there were more than 15 million living in poverty. To help put the figure into perspective, that number is greater than the total 2012 estimated populations of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut combined. While the report points out that both numbers weren’t statistically different than the numbers from 2011, it highlights the staggering number of children and families who are struggling in today’s economic environment.
A Huffington Post piece by Mark Shriver, senior vice president for strategic initiatives for Save the Children, makes some excellent points linking the Census Bureau report to what is taking place in Congress right now. His example of the tough choice Save the Children had to face because of cuts to their Head Start programs in Louisiana—having to choose between closing one community’s classroom over another—during a time when children and families need more support, not less, was incredibly upsetting. But, unfortunately, this is a choice many youth serving providers, including afterschool programs, are forced to deal with. I hope you’ll take the time to read the rest of Mark’s piece "Boom and Bust: Economic Recovery Falling Short for Kids."
While this November is not a Congressional election, there are a number of state and local races that are garnering national attention—and afterschool programs have been a part of several of those election campaigns. In particular, the governor’s race in New Jersey and the mayor’s race in New York City have featured candidates proposing substantial expansions of afterschool programs.
Democratic New Jersey Gubernatorial Candidate Barbara Buono has incorporated afterschool as part of her education platform. In general she has pushed for additional resources to ensure that all children in New Jersey have the supports and opportunities they need. Her education platform specifically includes a vision for supporting afterschool programs:
Restore funding for before and afterschool care programs. Before and afterschool programs provide students with meaningful recreation and enrichment opportunities and ensure the process of learning continues even outside the classroom. Restoring funding to these programs will be critical to helping our students thrive.
It has been six months since the sequester went into effect, however the forward funding mechanism used by many federal education programs has delayed a visible impact at the local level. That is changing as the 2013-2014 school year gets under way and the effects of the sequester on education are made more clear, including scaled back federal investments in afterschool programs.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) recent opinion piece on the sequester that appeared in the Metro West Daily News in Massachusetts acknowledged the role of afterschool programs in helping working families:
“Other cuts are just as mindless. More and more parents are working, but afterschool and other programs’ funding is getting cut for more than a million of our kids. Ask a million parents what it is like to try to hold down a job when the afterschool program closes its doors.”
Last month's report by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), Surviving Sequester, Round One: Schools Detail Impact of Sequester Cuts included the results of a poll of superintendents asking how the sequester cuts will impact their district. Twenty-four percent of superintendents reported that they would reduce afterschool and Saturday enrichment programs, while 22 percent said they would eliminate summer school programs. Just under 20 percent also reported they would reduce extra-curricular activities and shift funding of extracurricular activities to families or community organizations.
Today Congress goes on a month-long recess. Representatives and senators will be home until Sept. 9 meeting with constituents and hosting Town Hall meetings. Plan now to reach out to your Members of Congress during this recess to emphasize the need for continued federal support of afterschool, before-school and summer learning programs.
Did you know that the Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) initiative was cut by $60 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 as a result of the sequester?
More than 60,000 children are expected to lose access to quality afterschool, before-school and summer learning programs as a result of the cut. Your Members of Congress need to hear from you this month before they continue to tackle 2014 spending for education programs like 21st CCLC when they return to session this fall.
If you have not already reached out to your representative and senators, here are five actions you can take:
By Sarah Keller
Last week Sen. Chuck Schumer introduced a bipartisan bill, the Child Protection Improvements and Electronic Life and Safety Security Systems Act of 2013. The bill addresses the problem of a current lack of an all-encompassing criminal background database system. While all youth serving organizations can check the in-state criminal records of job applicants and volunteers, only one-third of states provide these organizations with access to the FBI database to conduct nationwide criminal background checks.
A now expired pilot program created by the PROTECT Act of 2004 gave selected youth-serving organization access to nationwide criminal records. Statistics from that program show the importance of having comprehensive background checks. In that program, 6 percent of applicants had a criminal record that should have prevented them from working with children. Additionally, 40 percent of those crimes were not committed in the same state the person applied for the job or volunteer opportunity, meaning that the record would be undetected without a nationwide criminal record search.
Sen. Schumer’s bill expands the PROTECT Act’s pilot program by providing all youth-serving organizations with access to the FBI’s database through the creation of a federal criminal history review entity. The youth serving organization will then be able to simultaneously check the in-state and national criminal history of a potential employee or volunteer. After a check is run, the youth serving organization will be notified if the applicant has an arrest or conviction for sexual offenses, violent offenses or crimes against children, among other crimes. However, due to privacy concerns, the organization will not be given information on the exact nature of the charges or convictions. The bill also mandates that the entire process take a few days at most, instead of the current wait time of up to six weeks, and cost a maximum of $25 as opposed to the current price of $24-$59 per person.
The Afterschool Alliance has worked with the American Camp Association and other partners in support of this bill for the past several years. The Afterschool Alliance has endorsed Sen. Schumer’s bill.
On Wednesday the bipartisan Workforce Investment Act (WIA) reauthorization bill passed through the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee by an 18-3 vote, and will now be considered by the full Senate. The House ofRepresentatives passed their version, the SKILLS Act (HR 803), earlier this year.
The original WIA legislation was first passed by Congress in 1998 and has been overdue for reauthorization since 2003. The reauthorization bill passed by the committee contains changes to the legislation that reflect the ever-changing global economy, input from business, education and labor groups, and more than a decade of experience with existing programs. The bipartisan reauthorization bill was co-sponsored by Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN).
From an afterschool and summer learning perspective, the bill expands opportunities for youth who are out of school, out of work and at risk by increasing the percentage of funding dedicated to assisting out-of-school youth and young adults to 75 percent. For youth, the bill:
The Republican Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill passed the House of Representatives this morning by a vote of 221 to 207, with 12 Republicans joining House Democrats in opposing the bill.
HR 5, the Student Success Act, does not reauthorize the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative, which could lead to more than 1.1 million students losing access to desperately needed afterschool, before-school and summer learning programs that keep students safe, inspire learning and provide a lifeline for our hard working families. While the bill does create the Local Competitive Grant Program that would fund “supplemental student support activities such as before, after, or summer school activities, tutoring, and expanded learning time;” it allows the same Grant Program to also support school day activities, such as academic subject-specific programs, adjunct teacher programs, extended learning time programs, dual enrollment programs and parent engagement. At a time when local and state funding is declining, it is likely that this grant would predominantly be used to fund activities during the school day.
The House Republican Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill is scheduled to make its way to the floor of the House of Representatives today. HR 5, the Student Success Act, debate on the House floor will start today and a final vote will most likely take place tomorrow. The White House has issued a veto threat on the bill and stated it “would represent a significant step backwards in the effort to help our Nation's children and their families prepare for their futures.”
HR 5 does not reauthorize the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative, which could lead to more than 1.1 million students losing access to desperately needed afterschool, before-school and summer learning programs that keep students safe, inspire learning and provide a lifeline for our hard working families. While the bill does create the Local Competitive Grant Program that would fund “supplemental student support activities such as before, after, or summer school activities, tutoring, and expanded learning time.” It also allows the same funds to support school day activities, such as academic subject specific programs, adjunct teacher programs, extended learning time programs, dual enrollment programs and parent engagement. At a time when local and state funding is declining, it is likely that this grant would predominantly be used to fund activities during the school day.