Are you “Speaking Up” about digital learning this year? If not, you're missing a unique opportunity to have your views—as well as the views of your colleagues, students, their parents and the local community—included in the increasingly important U.S. national and state discussions on digital learning policies, programs and funding.
The Afterschool Alliance is proud to announce a special partnership with Project Tomorrow this year to encourage participation of afterschool organizations in their online research project Speak Up. The Speak Up National Research Project annually collects and reports on the authentic, unfiltered views of K–12 students, parents and educators about critical digital age education and technology issues. Since 2003, more than 3 million K–12 education stakeholders have shared their ideas about ed tech through the Speak Up online surveys. And we need your ideas too!
This year, for the first time, Project Tomorrow will be providing an additional online survey for community members. Local employers, after school providers, school board members and homeowners without children in the local schools can now provide their views on the role of technology in preparing students for the jobs and careers of the 21st century. This new set of data will provide valuable insights for the participating organizations as well as state and federal policymakers on the importance of digital tools and resources for college and career readiness.
This month we re-launched our effort to promote the Child and Adult Care Feeding Program (CACFP) At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program offered through the Department of Agriculture. Millions of young people that participate in afterschool programs every afternoon go home to food insecure households. The Afterschool Meals Program provides an opportunity to offer a nutritious, balanced meal to children to help them focus during the afterschool hours. Afterschool meals often sustain children until breakfast at school the next morning.
Since 2011, the Afterschool Meals Program has proven to be an effective way to reduce childhood hunger and promote a healthy childhood weight. In 2012, 16 million children (22 percent) under the age of 18 lived in poverty and were exposed to hunger.
If your afterschool program currently doesn't offer afterschool meals and you would like to learn more, click here to become an Afterschool Meals Champion. We look forward to connecting you with resources and tools to help you become an afterschool meals site or sponsor!
STEM, child care & federal policy filled the agenda when state afterschool networks came to Washington
Late last month, leaders from more than 40 state afterschool networks, including representatives from state education agencies, gathered for several days in Washington, D.C., for a national convening: “Expanded Learning Opportunities: STEM Programs and Systems.”
The convening, co-hosted by the Department of Education, the C.S. Mott Foundation and the Noyce Foundation, focused on creating positive STEM outcomes for more students through collaboration and cooperation among national, state and local partners. Sessions allowed network leaders and education officials to work together to consider how to leverage investments and actions to expand the availability of quality informal science in afterschool and impact more students across the country.
Deputy Secretary of Education Jim Shelton opened the conference with a well-received talk on the partnerships necessary to generate the best possible STEM outcomes in young people. Stating that learning occurring after school is just as essential as learning taking place during the school day, the deputy secretary demonstrated his understanding of the depth and power of informal STEM education occurring in quality afterschool programs.
By Sarah Keller
On Wednesday the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act of 2013 (S. 1086) passed out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee by unanimous voice vote. The bipartisan bill—sponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC), Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN)—was last reauthorized in 1996.
CCDBG is the main federal source of funding for families needing child care and also funds child care quality initiatives. Currently, 1.6 million children a month—from birth to age 13—receive funding totaling $5 billion a year. About 600,000 school-age children are provided with care through CCDBG. All of the senators agreed about the importance of providing high-quality, affordable, safe child care. This bill also gives working parents the flexibility to determine the best child care options for their family. To ensure that child care centers are safe, the bill enacted several provisions that reflect the changes that have occurred in the 17 years since the last reauthorization. These changes include:
- Comprehensive background checks for child care workers
- At least yearly inspections of child care programs sites to ensure the site is safe and providing developmentally appropriate activities for the children
- Promotion of continuity of care
- Help for homeless families looking for child care
- Raising the health requirement of child care centers
- Orientation and professional development training for child care program workers
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 the Afterschool Alliance submitted comments to the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the Department of Health and Human Services on the ACF’s proposed rule to amend the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) regulations. According to ACF, this proposed rule would strengthen health and safety requirements for child care providers, reflect current state and local practices to improve the quality of child care, infuse new accountability for federal tax dollars, and leverage the latest knowledge and research in the field of early care and education to better serve low-income children and families.
In comments to ACF, the Afterschool Alliance applauded the direction ACF is heading by proposing a rule emphasizing that quality child care opportunities are provided to parents, and focusing on improving health and safety standards. ACF was commended for emphasizing the value of quality school age before-school and afterschool programs, recognizing the collaborative role played by statewide afterschool networks, and for highlighting the importance of a continuity of care for children aging out of early care and phasing into school-age care.
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.