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MAY
25
2017

POLICY
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Secretary DeVos testifies on administration’s education budget

By Erik Peterson

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Yesterday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies on the Trump administration’s newly released FY2018 full education budget proposal. While the hearing mainly focused on school choice, vouchers, and state flexibility, several members of Congress spoke out against the proposed elimination of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) afterschool initiative.

Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.) opened the hearing, followed by opening statements by Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.).

Rep. DeLauro ran through a list of programs that are on the chopping block, including the 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which “help keep two million kids safe after school.” Observing that “education is the great equalizer in our country,” DeLauro highlighted the necessity of quality education resources for the most vulnerable.

“We have an achievement gap in this country—and it is worse in high-poverty areas, both urban and rural. Yet these are the very areas we would starve with this budget,” DeLauro said.

Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) noted that afterschool programs are one of her favorite education initiatives because even if you “can’t get behind” educational enrichment activities, these programs can guarantee working parents that their children are safe after the school day ends. She also pointed out the stark contrast between the president’s proposed FY2018 and the bipartisan omnibus package just passed earlier in May.

Secretary DeVos testified in support of the budget, followed by an extended question and answer period. Reps. DeLauro, Lowey and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) all spoke out in support of the Community Learning Centers federal afterschool and summer learning program.

“[This] morally bankrupt budget steals health care from children and food assistance from hungry families in order to pad the pockets of billionaires and defense contractors,” Lee said. “If their budget is enacted, afterschool programs will close. Seniors will be forced to forgo medical care. Parents will have to choose between paying the rent and putting food on the table.”

While Secretary DeVos did not directly address the proposed cut to afterschool, she did speak to the need for creativity in education, stating, “ I want to unleash a new era of creativity and ingenuity in the education space. My hope is that—working in concert with each of you—we can make education in America the envy of the rest of the world.”

The afterschool field has long been a home to innovation and creativity and we look forward to continuing to make that case to the Secretary.

The subcommittee is expected to consider the FY2018 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education spending bill later this summer. While the president’s budget proposal eliminates afterschool funding, the subcommittee will ultimately determine the funding level for Community Learning Centers and all other education and human services programs. Earlier this spring, more than 80 members of Congress from all across party lines submitted a letter to the subcommittee calling for full funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

Friends of afterschool programs can reach out to members of Congress now, sending a clear message: Americans support afterschool and summer learning programs! Add your voice and take action now, and join us on June 7 for a national call-in day to send a clear message of support for afterschool funding for 2018 and for years to come.

APR
28
2017

RESEARCH
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What you need to know about the GAO's afterschool report

By Jen Rinehart

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on 21st Century Community Learning Centers on April 26 highlighting the benefits of afterschool participation and calling on the U.S. Department of Education to update their performance measures and data collection. The report confirms that participation in afterschool programs improves student behavior and school attendance and that the broad range of benefits from afterschool is more evident among students who attend their afterschool program for more than 60 days than among those who do not. The report also highlights the essential role that Community Learning Center grants play in helping afterschool programs leverage much-needed support from a range of community partners.

Afterschool community is committed to quality

Many afterschool providers have demonstrated their dedication to continuously improving their programs by adopting quality standards and utilizing continuous improvement tools. An array of program evaluations clearly demonstrate that quality programs are making a difference for children and youth. In fact, had the GAO selected a larger body of research on which to base its conclusions, including a wider array of state Community Learning Centers evaluations and other large studies of afterschool, its conclusions about program effectiveness would have been even stronger.

Widespread agreement that 21st CCLC performance measures need an update

In the years leading up to the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), we spent a great deal of time convening the afterschool field to gather input about the vision of 21st CCLC in ESEA reauthorization. In that process, it became clear that there is broad consensus from the field around the need for updated 21st CCLC performance measures and data collection. That consensus is echoed in the GAO report, which recommends broadening the measures to include classroom behavior, school day attendance, and engagement. Improved alignment between Community Learning Centers program objectives and performance measures will help afterschool programs more effectively demonstrate their role in supporting student success, which is essential for ongoing public support.

Technical assistance should expand

The GAO report also calls for the department to update and expand the technical assistance offered to grantees. That’s another change that the afterschool community pushed hard for—and won—in the reauthorization of ESEA. By implementing the changes called for in the reauthorization of 21st CCLC, the department can bring improvements to professional development, data collection, and program evaluation as early as the school year that begins this fall.

Continued federal investment is vital

More than anything, this new report underscores the need to continue the federal investment in quality afterschool programs, which keep kids safe, inspire them to learn, and help working families. The Trump administration should abandon its indefensible proposal to defund Community Learning Centers—which would take afterschool and summer learning programs away from 1.6 million kids, devastating low-income families and communities—and instead implement the GAO’s recommendations.

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APR
3
2017

POLICY
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What to expect as the first ESSA state plan deadline approaches

By Jillian Luchner

Since the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was passed in December 2015, a great deal has been done to get ready for implementation and a great deal is left to happen (including appropriations) before the law goes into full effect in the 2017-2018 school year. Eighteen states aim to submit state consolidated plans for the April 3 deadline. You can see those states and learn more about their plans, including the proposed student indicators, on our ESSA state map.

The transition to the new presidential administration has resulted in a few changes to the process, mainly in regards to ESSA regulations and to the state consolidated plan template.

Regulations

On March 27, Trump signed a Congressional Review Act (CRA) legislation rolling back regulations concerning accountability and teacher preparation under ESSA. Those regulations emphasized stakeholder engagement, provided an extended deadline for identification of school support, and set provisions for what types of research could be used in picking a student success and school quality indicator. Individuals supporting the regulations praised the guidelines as offering important clarity and adaptability functions. Others expressed concern that the Department of Education had overreached and been too prescriptive.

FEB
16
2017

POLICY
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What will House resolutions of disapproval mean for ESSA implementation?

By Jillian Luchner

By Ellen Fern, Managing Director at Washington Partners

On Tuesday, February 7, the House of Representatives voted to overturn Obama administration regulations regarding accountability under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as well as regulations relating to teacher-preparation programs.

H.J.Res.57, which would overturn regulations regarding accountability under ESSA, passed by a vote of 234-190. A few more Democratic members signed on to pass the resolution overturning teacher-preparation regulations, H.J.Res. 58, by a vote of 240 – 181. Both regulations were subject to the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows lawmakers to overturn regulations from the previous administration within a certain period of time. 

The CRA has never been used on education regulations, so if the regulations are overturned via a similar vote in the Senate, it is unclear how the Department of Education would proceed as far as issuing guidance or new regulations. If the regulations are overturned, the Department will be barred from issuing "substantially similar" regulations on these two issues before lawmakers reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Higher Education Act, respectively. At the very least, if the accountability regulations are overturned, the deadlines of April 3 or September 8 for states to submit ESSA plans for Education Department approval, with implementation to start in the 2018–19 school year, would most likely disappear, too. 

FEB
8
2017

POLICY
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Senate confirms Trump nominee Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education

By Jillian Luchner

On February 7, the Senate voted to confirm Elisabeth (Betsy) DeVos as the new U.S. Secretary of Education (learn more about Secretary DeVos). Trump’s controversial nominee for the cabinet position received 50 votes in favor of her confirmation and 50 against. The vote that ran along party lines, with the exception of Sens. Lisa Murkoswki (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), who broke from their party to vote “no.” The tie was broken in favor of DeVos by Vice President Mike Pence, marking the first time a cabinet nominee has been confirmed as a result of the vice president’s vote.

The confirmation caps off a contentious process that began soon after Trump announced his nominee. DeVos provided oral testimony in a Senate hearing on January 17. She then submitted responses to a reported 1,400 additional written questions submitted by members of the Senate.

Secretary DeVos has applauded the benefits of afterschool and STEM in her written responses, some of which were posted on The Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog. A question from Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) referred to his work on reauthorizing the 21st Century Community Learning Center initiative in the Every Student Succeeds Act and asked DeVos how she planned to “support rich high quality learning experiences for students.” DeVos responded:

After-school programs are critical to the safety and continued learning for many students. There are many programs offered by wonderful local community groups and schools that offer valuable opportunities for learning. As you noted, the Every Student Succeeds Act included the reauthorization of the 21 Century Community Learning Centers, a program that helps to provide after-school services to many children. If confirmed, I will implement the law as intended and funded by Congress, including the 21 Century Community Learning Centers program.

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JAN
26
2017

POLICY
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Panel: When rethinking school governance, afterschool is a piece of the local puzzle

By Jillian Luchner

On January 19th, the National School Boards Association and the National School Boards Action Center hosted the Public Education Agenda for America's Success forum. Representatives from both conservative and liberal policy and research institutes came together in Washington, DC to discuss what to expect under a new administration and Congress.

The 2016 presidential campaign did not focus much on education issues, aside from a few conversations around child care and school choice. However, Gerard Robinson of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) mentioned that while education has not been a direct focus of President Trump’s attention, many of his priority issues—including safety, the economy and the military—are, in truth, education issues.

Based on what we know so far about the Trump Administration's education agenda and how it relates to out-of-school time, a couple of key themes emerged.

Federal government expected to pass the baton to the states

Many on the panel assumed the Trump Administration will look to return as much decision-making on data, performance, and implementation as possible to states, which resonates with the theme of the Every Student Succeeds Act passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in 2015.

All panelists expected a return to local control—but as AEI's Andy Smarick hypothesized, the very concept of local control may be changing. In the past, local control meant the ultimate decision makers on education issues should be local school boards and districts rather than the state or federal government, but Smarick now believes local control is reaching down to the level of the parent and family.

However, other panelists pointed out that with federal and state money flowing to districts and students, accountability in education will always have to be twofold: at the school and parent level with regard to student achievement, but also at the federal, state, and local level when considering how public tax dollars are being spent in the public interest.

JAN
25
2017

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: January 25, 2017

By Luci Manning

Drexel Awarded $30 Million towards Community and Education Programs (The Triangle, Pennsylvania)

A $30 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education will be used to fight poverty and build a supportive community for young people in a West Philadelphia neighborhood. Drexel University will coordinate the initiative in partnership with the city of Philadelphia and area nonprofits. Philadelphia was one of six cities to be awarded the grant, according to The Triangle. “These grants will provide cradle-to-career support for at-risk children in communities across the country, offering meaningful resources that will help them achieve their potential,” Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said in a statement.

County Schools Implements Program Giving Each Student an Extra Meal (Cullman Times, Alabama)

Starting this semester, all students at a handful of Cullman County Schools will be able to receive a free afterschool meal, regardless of need and whether they attend the school where the meal is served. “There are a lot of kids who are at school later in the day. All your athletic teams; the band; many of the extracurricular groups—when those kids stay for practice, they can have an extra meal without having to wait until they get home,” Chief School Financial Officer Ed Roberson told the Cullman Times. “It’s really just a great program for a lot of students, for a lot of reasons.”

Idaho Educators Should Capitalize on Opportunities during Nonschool Hours (Idaho Statesman, Idaho)

Writing in the Idaho Statesman, Idaho AfterSchool Network director Marie Hattaway urges state lawmakers to bolster out-of-school time programs in their policies: “Too often as we discuss quality education and its role in the future workforce, we just look to what is offered in the classroom.… It is imperative that policymakers and stakeholders consider partnerships with out-of-school programs to achieve statewide education goals, especially with STEM, workforce and literacy skills…. Idaho invests millions in education, millions in the 20 percent of time spent in the classroom. The other 80 percent of the time deserves strong consideration in state policies and budget. As the state strives to hit key educational benchmarks and goals, out-of-school time must not be overlooked.”

These Chessboards Are HUGE, and They’re Yours to Play with (Durango Herald, Colorado)

Students in the Durango Gametime afterschool and summer programs will learn to play chess and checkers on a large scale, thanks to the hard work and generosity of a 17-year-old Eagle Scout. Trever Snodgrass built the life-size chess and checkerboards himself and donated them to Chapman Hill, the Mason Center and the Durango Community Recreation Center as part of an Eagle Scout community service project, hoping they will ignite the youths’ imaginations. “When we first brought them in, the looks on their faces—it’s nice to know they’re enjoying it,” he told the Durango Herald. “I think the kids are going to love it.

JAN
20
2017

POLICY
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Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos testifies in Senate

By Erik Peterson

Betsy DeVos testifies before the Senate HELP Committee on January 17.

On Tuesday evening, January 17, 2017, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee convened a hearing to consider President Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Michigan philanthropist and education activist Betsy DeVos. During the course of the nominee’s three hour confirmation hearing, Senators’ questions addressed a wide range of issues from guns in schools to access to career and technical education.

DeVos’ background includes having served as chairwoman of the board of the Alliance for School Choice and directed the All Children Matter Political Action Committee, which she and her husband founded in 2003 to promote school vouchers, tax credits to businesses that give private school scholarships, and candidates who support these causes. She also served as chair of the American Federation for Children (AFC), which describes itself as "a leading national advocacy organization promoting school choice, with a specific focus on advocating for school vouchers and scholarship tax credit programs."

In 1989, Betsy DeVos and her husband founded the Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation. The Foundation's giving, according to its website, is motivated by faith, and "is centered in cultivating leadership, accelerating transformation and leveraging support in five areas," namely education, community, arts, justice, and leadership. In addition to a wide range of other programs, the Foundation has supported afterschool programs and providers in Michigan, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids.

The subject of afterschool programs did not come up during the hearing. Questions from senators largely focused on DeVos’ background as an education activist, higher education, accountability, assessment, and protecting the rights of students with disabilities and LGBTQ youth.

Democrats took aim at her large financial donations to anti-union organizations, among others. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 national organizations, wrote in an opposition letter to Senate HELP Committee members that it "cannot support a nominee who has demonstrated that she seeks to undermine bedrock American principles of equal opportunity, nondiscrimination and public education itself." Similar opposition came from other organizations including both national teachers unions as well as the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, the National Council of La Raza, the National Urban League and the American Association of University Women.

Republicans largely focused on the value of an outside perspective leading the Department. In a letter of support for her confirmation, 18 Republican governors praised DeVos as someone who “will fight to streamline the federal education bureaucracy, return authority back to states and local school boards, and ensure that more dollars are reaching the classroom." Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has been particularly vocal in support of DeVos, who sat on the board of Bush’s organization, the Foundation for Excellence in Education. Bush penned an op-ed praising her passion in advocating for local control of education.

Likewise, former Senator Joe Lieberman, a former Democrat turned Independent who serves on the board of the American Federation for Children, which DeVos previously chaired, introduced the nominee to the HELP Committee prior to her testimony.  Lieberman, who is a long-standing supporter of charter schools and voucher programs such as the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, spoke in support of her nomination.

The next step in the confirmation process comes later this week when Senators will submit questions to the nominee for her written response. The full Senate is expected to vote on DeVos later this month or early next month.   

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