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MAY
24
2017

IN THE FIELD
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In coal country, afterschool's a lifeline for working families

By Charlotte Steinecke

Photo courtesy of Monongalia County Schools Extended Day in Morgantown.

While some areas have started to recover from the Great Recession, some of the hardest-hit states continue to struggle with sluggish wage growth and limited employment opportunities. One of those states is West Virginia, where 1 in 4 children are growing up in poverty and well-paying union jobs, especially in the coal industry, are becoming rare.

One of those states is West Virginia, where 1 in 4 children are growing up in poverty and well-paying union jobs, especially in the coal industry, are becoming rare.

Last month we had the opportunity to hear from parents in West Virginia. Tommy G. is a single father of three hit by the downturn of the coal industry. In a nearby county, Chastity and Brennan took on longer hours and a second job after their incomes were cut. And in Fairmont, a family of eight juggles the many of demands of work and kids. What do these parents have in common? They rely on afterschool programs—and say losing afterschool would result in financial hardship and put their ability to work in jeopardy.

West Virginia’s strong demand for quality, affordable afterschool options is made clear by America After 3PM, which found that the rate of participation in West Virginia’s afterschool programs more than tripled between 2004 and 2014. Hardworking parents, many of whom make ends meet with two or more jobs, find support for their affordable childcare needs in the form of aftercare, free and reduced-price food, homework and academic assistance, and more.

MAY
24
2017

POLICY
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Number crunch: Details from the president's FY2018 budget

By Erik Peterson

Today, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney released the Trump administration’s fiscal year 2018 full budget proposal, following up on the “skinny budget” outline released in March. The full budget represents the president’s vision for how Congress should spend federal funds for the upcoming fiscal year that begins October 1, 2017 (FY18).

Consistent with the skinny budget released in March, the full budget proposal proposes the elimination of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative, which funds local afterschool programs in all 50 states. That proposal, which would devastate the 1.6 million children and families, comes in stark contrast to the strong support for afterschool recently displayed in Congress in the passage of the bipartisan FY17 omnibus spending bill last month, which included a $25 million increase to Community Learning Centers.

A budget opposed to research

The budget proposal, titled A New Foundation for American Greatness, attempts to justify the proposed elimination of Community Learning Centers by claiming that a lack of evidence exists that links the program to increased student achievement. In fact, over a decade of data and evaluations provide compelling evidence that Community Learning Center afterschool programs do in fact yield positive outcomes for participating children.

The Community Learning Centers initiative was reauthorized in December 2015 in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and saw its funding increased in the 2016 bipartisan omnibus spending bill. However, even with this strong support across party lines and a wealth of research to the contrary, the administration continues to maintain that the Community Learning Centers program is ineffective. The only evidence the administration uses to back its claim is hand-selected data that ignores more than a decade of evidence from numerous researchers showing that afterschool works. 

In fact, the Department of Education’s most recent report on Community Learning Centers finds that half of the students regularly participating in Community Learning Center programs improved their math and reading grades, two-thirds improved their homework and class participation, and more than half improved their classroom behavior. One out of four students moved from “not proficient” to “proficient” or better in both math and reading test scores. Considering that Community Learning Centers programs work with some of the most disadvantaged children and youth, many of whom would otherwise be unsupervised after school, we should be celebrating these victories.

MAY
23
2017

POLICY
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Trump doubles down: $0 for afterschool

By Charlotte Steinecke

Afterschool funding is still on the chopping block.

The fiscal year 2018 federal budget is in, and it eliminates 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding completely. Despite an overwhelming display of support for afterschool from voters, communities, and lawmakers from across the political spectrum, the White House remains committed to cutting the programs that kids and families rely on. 

When the budget cut was floated back in March, the reaction was swift and absolutely clear: 

  • More than 1,450 diverse organizations signed a letter calling on House and Senate appropriators to reject President Trump’s proposal and fund 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) at or above its current level of $1.167 billion.
  • Eighty-one members of Congress (twice as many as last year) signed a bipartisan letter to House Appropriations Committee leaders urging them not to cut afterschool funding.
  • Researchers across the ideological spectrum spoke out about the value of afterschool programs.
  • Highly respected institutions posted new research summaries demonstrating that afterschool programs provide tremendous benefits – as nearly every study has clearly shown.
  • A Quinnipiac national poll found that 83 percent of voters oppose cutting funding for afterschool and summer programs, with just 14 supporting the administration’s position.
  • Congress provided a modest increase in Community Learning Center funding for the remainder of FY2017, enabling 25,000 more students across the nation to participate in afterschool programs.

As our executive director Jodi Grant put it, the budget cut would be “a stunning blow” to working families, “who count on afterschool programs to provide enriching, educational opportunities for their children during the hours after the school day ends and before parents get home from work.”

But kids are the big losers if this budget cut goes forward. A decade of research show that afterschool works to boost student success. National studies of students who regularly attend 21st Century Community Learning Centers found participants improved math and reading grade level performance, class participation, homework completion, and classroom behavior. For example, in Texas’ 21st CCLC programs, students were more likely to be promoted to the next grade, while a statewide longitudinal evaluation of the After School Safety and Enrichment for Teens (ASSETs) program in California found that students participating received higher ELA and math assessment scores. For additional details on these evaluations and to read more state reports, download our 21st CCLC Statewide Evaluation Academic Highlights fact sheet.

And we know that the benefits of afterschool aren’t just for the children in the programs; parents with children in afterschool programs report being more focused at work and being able to work a full day.  That additional security has huge economic results for individual families and for the nation. In fact, according to a study by Catalyst and the Community, Families & Work Program at Brandeis University, parents with children in afterschool programs contribute an additional $50 to $300 billion more to the economy each year.

At a time when 1 in 5 children is unsupervised after the school day ends and nearly 19.4 million children are waiting to get into an afterschool program, “The administration’s proposal is painfully short-sighted and makes a mockery of the president’s promises to support inner cities and rural communities alike,” Grant added. Afterschool is working for millions of American families, and millions more have made it clear that there is immense unmet demand for programs—why would we want to shut them down?

It’s time to speak up in defense of afterschool. Our momentum is strong and we have fought back against one budgetary elimination before: we can do it again, and win. Email your representatives in Congress right now, and join us on June 7 for a national call-in day to tell your representatives that you will not accept elimination of federal afterschool funding. Together, our voices and our advocacy can make the difference that saves afterschool.

MAY
5
2017

POLICY
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Legislation proposed to fight chronic absenteeism

By Jillian Luchner

In April, Reps. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) introduced the Chronic Absenteeism Reduction Action (H.R. 1864), which would open up additional funds to be used for strategies to reduce school day absence by amending Title IV-A of the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Defined as an individual student missing a significant number of school days (usually 10 percent or more of the school year) including excused and unexcused absences, chronic absenteeism is associated with lower academic performance. The bill contains three main provisions to expand use of authorized Title IV-A funds (also known as Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants) to reduce chronic absenteeism:

  1. Data collection to monitor student progress
  2. Partnerships with local service providers (such as health, transportation and social services) to meet the unique needs of students with struggling attendance
  3. Mentoring programs

Each of these provisions is backed by research showing the positive effects these actions have on reducing chronic absenteeism. As the legislation notes, "students who meet regularly with mentors are 52 percent less likely to miss a day of school than their peers."

The bipartisan bill is endorsed by a number of youth development, health, justice, and education groups including the Afterschool Alliance, National Mentoring Partnership, School Superintendents Association, Campaign for Youth Justice, and Healthy Schools Campaign.

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learn more about: ESEA Federal Policy Legislation
APR
28
2017

POLICY
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New progress on juvenile justice reauthorization bills

By Jillian Luchner

Juvenile justice legislation has been on the move in both houses of Congress. On April 4, the House Education and Workforce committee marked up and passed H.R. 1809, sponsored by Rep. John Lewis (R-Minn.), by unanimous voice vote. The bipartisan legislation, similar to last year’s bill H.R. 5963, would update the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act for the first time since 2002 to represent new research and findings on effective methods of prevention and rehabilitation for at-risk youth and juvenile offenders. The bill will now go to the full House for consideration. A similar bill passed the full House overwhelmingly last year, 382 to 29.

Meanwhile, senators are working hard to break down the barriers that prevented their version of a juvenile justice reform bill from passing last year. Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) introduced S. 860, a carbon copy of last year’s bill, S. 1169, which was held up by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) over his objections to provisions concerning judges’ rights to detain children who violate valid court orders (VCOs). These provisions are expected to be removed from the current bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee under an agreement to make efforts to pass them as a separate bill later in the year.

What is a Valid Court Order?

A valid court order is a direction from a judge to a child in response to a “status offense” for which a juvenile cannot legally be detained, such as skipping school or running away from home. Under current law, if the juvenile does not follow the order, the violation can convert the status offense into a more serious offense for which the youth can be legally detained (a clause known as the “VCO exception”). This means that a youth who runs away once cannot, by law, be placed in detention, but a youth who has run away twice (after receiving a VCO) can be.

Proponents of updating the law hope to protect these status-offending youth from what they view as unnecessary and ineffective detention. Research shows the negative effects of detention on youth include a higher probability of the child becoming a repeat offender as compared to youth in community-based programs. Sen. Cotton, who wants to keep the VCO exception in the bill, would like the decision to remain in judges’ hands.

We are looking forward to the much-needed passage of juvenile justice reauthorization this year. These bills focus on youth and community supports that provide preventative solutions for at-risk youth and rehabilitative solutions for justice-involved youth. The new legislation introduces additional research and community partners that create a caring, forward-looking, and strengths-based support system for our children. If the bills pass through the committees and full chambers of the House and Senate, the final step will be working through the differences between the two bills and securing a final passage.

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learn more about: Congress Federal Policy Legislation
APR
4
2017

POLICY
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6 steps to get a meeting with your representatives

By Charlotte Steinecke

As the spring recess comes to DC, many senators and members of Congress will soon be back in their home districts. It’s an opportunity for constituents (like you!) to meet with lawmakers face-to-face and directly communicate the importance of afterschool in their community. Meetings with representatives offer a chance at a meaningful conversation about afterschool and studies have shown that site visits are powerful tools to make the case for afterschool.

Make the most of the recess with a phone call to your representative, asking to set up a district office meeting or a site visit so they can see the incredible work being done in your afterschool program.

  1. Establish your goals. Are you interested in inviting your representative to visit your afterschool program, or would you prefer to set up a meeting at the representative’s office to discuss your concerns about President Trump’s proposal to eliminate 21st Century Community Learning Centers? Decide on your strategy.
  2. Find your Senate and House representatives. Click through to your senator or representative’s website to find district office locations in your state—many reps have more than one!
  3. Get in touch. The best way to communicate with your representative is through a phone call.  Phone up the district office nearest to you and make your request. A simple script is all you need: “Hi, my name is [your name] from [your town] and I would like to schedule a meeting with the senator/congressperson to discuss the importance of afterschool funding and share some information about our afterschool program. What is the senator/congressperson’s availability during the spring recess?”
  4. Prepare for the meeting. Brush up on some talking points. If you decide on a site visit, check out our guide to hosting a successful congressional visit to maximize the impact of the experience. If a district office meeting is more suitable, brush up on your representative’s stance on education and afterschool and prepare some clear questions and requests to help keep the conversation on track.
  5. Tell the world. If you do manage to schedule a meeting during the recess, we want to hear how it went! Please share your story through our survey tool and be sure to tweet and post on Facebook about the meeting.
  6. Don’t give up! If your representative’s schedule is too packed to accommodate a visit or meeting in the immediate future, don’t be discouraged! The act of calling your representative sends a powerful message about your concern for and passion about afterschool—as a constituent, this message matters.

Many representatives are very busy during their spring recess, visiting around the state and interacting with constituents—but simply making the phone call is in itself an important way to show where you stand on protecting afterschool resources for kids. Whether you schedule a site visit, attend a district office meeting, or just make a phone call, carving a slice of your representative’s attention for afterschool is one of the best ways to have an impact on their decision-making process.

Looking for more ways to take action? Check out the Take Action to Save Afterschool page for more resources and strategies.

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learn more about: 21st CCLC Advocacy Congress Federal Policy
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.

MAR
29
2017

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: March 29, 2017

By Luci Manning

Trump Proposal Hits After-School Programs (Houston Chronicle, Texas)

Almost 130 afterschool programs in the Houston area may lose federal funding under President Trump’s proposed budget calling for the elimination of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative. More than 103,000 students across Texas participate in afterschool programs and their participation results in demonstrable academic benefits like increased attendance and improved test scores. “For a lot of these kids, we feel like we’re the difference,” Communities in Schools senior project director Kam Marvel told the Houston Chronicle. “Offering 15 additional hours of education a week improves the chances of passing the test and increases exposure to certified teachers.”

21st CCLC Funds, Afterschool Programs in Danger from Proposed Cuts (Lake News, Missouri)

Some 1,500 students in Lake area schools take part in afterschool programs like Afterschool Ambassador Colleen Abbott’s LEAP program (Learning Enriched Afterschool Program), engaging in STEM learning, physical education, and homework help. Despite the improved test scores, grades, and attendance records of participating students, LEAP and other programs may lose funding under the president’s proposed federal budget. Abbott believes these programs are essential not only for students but also for working parents. “The families we support are hardworking individuals who strive to provide for their kids in order to give their children opportunities to succeed,” she told the Lake News.

Local After-School Programs Face Cuts with Trump’s Proposed Budget (Press of Atlantic City, New Jersey)

President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to afterschool programs would be devastating for students and parents in New Jersey, according to advocates and program operators. “Losing this would be a devastating blow to our students and families,” Wildwood supervisor of curriculum Josepha Penrose told the Press of Atlantic City. “This does allow more parents to work knowing their children have a safe place to go after school.” Programs like the Boys & Girls Club serve 26,000 students in 57 school districts across the state and give students a safe, engaging place to spend the hours after school ends and before their parents get home from work.

After School Funding a ‘Critical’ Need for Kids (Argus Leader, South Dakota)

In a letter to the Argus LeaderAfterschool Ambassador Heather DeWit explains why afterschool programs are critical for her children and other students throughout South Dakota: “The caring adults in after school and summer programs have made a positive difference for both my children. They have had opportunities to make a difference in their world, been supported by positive role models and learned new things, all while I was busy at work... The economic toll we would face in South Dakota. if working parents lost this critical support, the risk factors our children would face, and the incredible benefits our children would lose, make this an obvious area where cuts would be tragic.”