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Confirmed: funding for afterschool maintained in House education spending bill

By Erik Peterson

Participants from the Alternatives Inc. afterschool program visit the Capitol during this year's Afterschool for All Challenge.

As previewed on the Afterschool Snack last week, the House Appropriations Committee marked up the fiscal year 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) funding bill on July 13th and 14th, maintaining funding for federal afterschool and summer learning programs. In total, the draft bill includes $161.6 billion in discretionary funding, which is $569 million below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level and $2.8 billion President Obama's budget request.

According to a statement by the Appropriations Committee, “funding within the bill is targeted to proven programs with the most national benefit.” The bill cuts discretionary funding for the Department of Education by $1.3 billion compared to fiscal year 2016 levels, but keeps 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) level with last year’s funding at $1.16 billion.

The new Student Support and Academic Achievement State Grant program in Title IV Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is funded at $1 billion, $700 million above the Senate LHHS bill and $500 million above the President’s budget request, for grants that provide flexible funds to states and school districts to expand access to a well-rounded education (including afterschool STEM initiatives), improve school conditions, and improve the use of technology. The bill also includes $10 million for Full Service Community Schools (FSCS) grants whereas the Senate version of the bill had provided no funding for FSCS.

The legislation includes funding for programs within the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education, and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

With regard to 21st CCLC, the funding level set in the House bill will allow 21st CCLC to continue providing quality afterschool and summer learning programs for almost two million children through local school-community partnerships. The bill also funds the Child Care Development Block Grant at $2.8 billion, a significant funding stream for school-age child care.

On the Senate side, the Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee and full Committee marked up its FY17 spending bill earlier this summer, cutting $117 million from 21st CCLC

Add your voice to the debate on afterschool funding

Given the activity in the House and Senate around important policy and funding decisions, now is an opportune time to reach out to members of Congress to remind them of the value of afterschool and summer learning programs in inspiring learning, keeping young people safe, and helping working families.



Guest Blog: 10 ways to engage youth in the election

By Robert Abare

Written by Rachel Roberson, who leads the Letters to the Next President project for KQED

With the 2016 election prominent in the minds of voting-age Americans, one might wonder how young people can participate in the conversation about our country’s political future. Even if they are not old enough to cast their votes in November, youth have an undeniable stake in the outcome of this year’s presidential election. So how do we engage them in a meaningful way?

Letters to the Next President is a project that invites young people ages 13 to 18 to make their voices heard by writing letters or creating multimedia projects about election issues that matter to them. The initiative, organized by the National Writing Project, KQED Public Media and a coalition of partners including the Afterschool Alliance, has assembled a robust collection of resources for educators to help youth create letters.

Here are ten resources to help you engage youth this election year:

  1. Election Central 2016 from PBS LearningMedia
    At Election Central 2016, teachers will find tools, resources and creative solutions to educate students on the various facets of the political process. With content about the process and history of elections, these tools help turn news coverage into learning opportunities.
  2. Election Collection from NYTimes Learning Network
    Election news will dominate the headlines all summer long. Here are a few ways students can keep up with the candidates, campaigns, conventions and controversies — and make their own opinions heard.
  3. Letters to the Next President 2.0 Kick-off Webinar
    In this hangout educators described the power of participating in the previous iteration of L2P and highlighted the growing set of opportunities and resources available to educators supporting youth engagement for the 2016 Presidential Election.
  4. A Teacher’s Perspective from Edutopia
    Ellen Shelton, Site Director at the University of Mississippi Writing Project and former high school teacher in Tupelo, Mississippi, explains why she believes supporting this kind of political discussion in the classroom can have a deep impact on students now and in the future.
  5. Teaching the Art of Civil Dialogue
    Educator Chris Sloan reflects on using resources from Do Now, a weekly activity for students to engage and respond to current issues using social media tools.
  6. Developing and Discussing Political Views In the Classroom
    Educator Janelle Bence discusses some of her strategies for supporting students in discussing a wide range of political opinions in the classroom.
  7. Election Activities Outside the Classroom
    This blog post provides educators with a guide for developing L2P 2.0 letter-writing into a focused, whole-class civic action effort.
  8. NWP’s College-Ready Writers Program
    The goal of this mini-unit is to support students as they explore the purpose and format of Letters to the Next President 2.0, choose an issue worth writing about, gather information from multiple sources, develop a claim and write a complete argument draft.
  9. Argumentative Writing from Teaching Channel
    This video contains an in-depth conversation on lesson planning for reading and writing, identifying main ideas and developing arguments.
  10. Dear Next President from PBS NewsHour Extra
    Encourage youth to talk about election issues that matter to them by producing a video letter to our next president.  Find key steps to creating a video for Letters to the Next President along with examples and tutorials to help young media makers get started.

To explore this initiative in more detail, we encourage you to check out the youth letters from the first iteration of Letters to the Next President in 2008. You can also find more resources at, and sign up to receive monthly bulletins about new ways to participate.



Afterschool leaders selected as 2016 White-Riley-Peterson Fellows

By Elizabeth Tish

Former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley

Earlier this month, sixteen advocates for afterschool and expanded learning leaders from across the country were chosen as the 2016-2017 cohort of White-Riley-Peterson Policy Fellows.

Throughout the White-Riley-Peterson Fellowship, a partnership between the Riley Institute at Furman University and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, fellows will study policy-making for afterschool and expanded learning through real world case studies. During the 10-month program, fellows will also design and implement a state-level policy project with the support of their Statewide Afterschool Network and the Afterschool Alliance.

The White-Riley-Peterson Policy Fellowship is named for William S. White, President and CEO of the C.S. Mott Foundation; Richard W. Riley, former South Carolina Governor and U.S. Secretary of Education under President Clinton; and Dr. Terry Peterson, National Board Chair with the Afterschool Alliance, Director, Afterschool and Community Learning Network, and senior fellow at the Riley Institute.

The 2016-2017 White-Riley-Peterson Policy Fellows are:

  • Billie Jo Bakeberg, Steering Committee Chair, South Dakota Afterschool Network (Spearfish, S.D.)
  • Suzanne Birdsall, State Director, 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), Department of Education (Silver Lake, N.H.)
  • David Carroll, Chief Program Officer, Neighborhood Houses (St. Louis, Mo.)
  • Lisa Caruthers, Director, Center for Afterschool, Summer and Expanded Learning, Harris County Department of Education (Houston, Texas)
  • Leslie Garvin, Executive Director, North Carolina Campus Compact (Elon, N.C.)
  • Nichelle Harris, Network Lead, Ohio Afterschool Network (Columbus, Ohio)
  • Jessica Hay, Program Director, California Afterschool Network (Sacramento, Calif.)
  • Stephanie Lennon, Policy & Advocacy Coordinator, School’s Out Washington (Seattle, Wash.)
  • Amber May, Organizer – Program Director, Mississippi Statewide Afterschool Partnership Network — Operation Shoestring, Inc. (Jackson, Miss.)
  • Shallie Pitman, Youth Development Associate, ACT Now (Chicago, Ill.)
  • Kelly Riding, Network Lead, Utah Afterschool Network (Salt Lake City, Utah)
  • Laura Saccente, Director, Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network (PSAYDN) (Camp Hill, Penn.)
  • Megan Stanek, Network Director, Oklahoma Partnership for Expanded Learning (OPEL) (Oklahoma City, Okla.)
  • Patrick Stanton, Creative Research Director, Massachusetts Afterschool Partnership (Boston, Mass.)
  • Kelly Malone Sturgis, Executive Director, New York State Network for Youth Success (Albany, N.Y.)
  • Courtney Sullivan, Executive Director, Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence (Tempe, Ariz.)

You can find more information about all 75 fellows who have participated in the program since its creation in 2012 through the Riley Institute.



Victories for STEM education in recent legislative activity

By Anita Krishnamurthi

As the legislative season winds down, several wins for afterschool STEM education have emerged. Most recently, on July 13-14 the House Appropriations Committee marked up the fiscal year 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) funding bill. The bill maintains funding for 21st CCLC at the current level of $1.16 billion, which is very good news! As you might recall, the Senate version of the bill cut afterschool by $117 million, in line with President Obama's budget request.

Informal STEM education has bright outlook in new bills

STEM is increasingly an integral part of afterschool programs, so the House's proposed funding level for 21st CCLC will ensure that millions of children will continue to have access to STEM learning opportunities. The House education spending bill also provides $1 billion for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment program, the new block grant in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Although this is lower than the authorized level of $1.65 billion, the House appropriation puts the funding at $700 million over the Senate LHHS bill and $500 million above the President’s budget request. STEM education advocates are breathing a collective sigh of relief, as this grant was designed to be a formula grant for districts to use toward a wide range of activities, including STEM programing (with very supportive language about partnerships with afterschool programs), arts education and counseling services. House appropriators have indicated their strong support for the initiative with this funding level, but the final outcome is far from guaranteed as the Senate and House numbers will have to be reconciled eventually.

On July 7, 2016, the House Education and the Workforce Committee held a full committee markup of H.R. 5587, The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Actwhich you may know better as the Perkins CTE bill. The update includes changes that recognize the role of afterschool and summer programs in preparing young people for the workforce, and explicitly includes community-based organizations as eligible entities for funding. The bill has provisions for states to award grants that provide “support for programs and activities that increase access, student engagement, and success in STEM fields (including computer science), especially for underrepresented groups.” This provision could be very beneficial for afterschool STEM programs, especially when combined with the new expanded eligibility for starting these activities in the 5th grade (compared to the previous limit of 7th grade). 

Finally, the Senate Commerce Committee marked up S. 3084, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, which encompasses plan to reauthorize the America COMPETES Actin late June. This bill authorizes the various federal science mission agencies, such as NASA, NOAA, NSF, Dept. of Energy etc., including their significant investments in STEM education. There are several key elements of the bill that are supportive of informal/afterschool STEM programming:



How afterschool can help communities in face of division

By Jodi Grant

Children are often more in touch with the world around them than adults—they constantly ask questions about things they see and hear. Today, this awareness may lead to especially difficult questions, as recent tragedies in Orlando, Baton Rouge, Minnesota and Dallas are still fresh in the hearts of Americans, and heated conversations on racism and prejudice grip the nation.

Thankfully, afterschool programs provide safe, supportive settings for children amid difficult circumstances, and often become one of the first places youth feel comfortable asking questions, sharing views and expressing emotions that spring from tough issues. For some kids, program staff are even like extended family.

That said, helping youth address violence, fear, grief and racism presents a considerable and challenging responsibility. I encourage educators to explore a valuable list of resources provided by the Partnership for After School Education (PASE), which offers guidance on navigating challenging topics and circumstances with children.

As an additional resource, the Afterschool Alliance and the out-of-school time field recently welcomed the advice of Dr. David J. Schonfeld, Director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, in a webinar on how to support grieving children. In the webinar recording, youth services professionals can learn coping strategies to minimize children’s distress and behavioral difficulties that may arise from feelings of loss, confusion and anger.

Beyond providing welcoming environments for delicate conversations, afterschool programs serve as a glue that bonds various community partners in a united effort to support youth. Law enforcement agencies have often become those partners, and they are an increasingly vital one. When police and youth get to know each other in a fun, informal setting, they build positive personal relationships. Those bridges can help break down stereotypes, provide youth with new trusted mentors and build bonds that strengthen communities.

Aaron Dworkin, the President of After-School All-Stars, provided an inspiring example of the afterschool field rising to the challenge of building cooperative, peaceful communities. “We believe our programs and staff play an important and powerful role in many communities being affected by violence,” he said in a statement to stakeholders. “Many of us are in a unique position to help facilitate important conversations led by professionally trained counselors and to offer support and assistance to students, families, staff and schools working to reduce violence and cope with the trauma of its aftermath.”

This determined effort to promote harmony and encourage meaningful discussion has the potential to impact more than 70,000 youth who participate in After-School All-Stars programs at 326 schools across the country. These inspiring actions by the afterschool field may not generate bold national headlines, but they inspire the next generation of Americans to work together in peace, respect and mutual understanding.



Weekly Media Roundup: July 13, 2016

By Luci Manning

Kids Bring Legos to Life in the Woodlands (Houston Chronicle, Texas)

The Woodlands Children’s Museum is hosting workshops on Shakespearian theater, arts and crafts and chemistry this summer, but the museum’s Lego robotics course is by far the most popular. The elementary schoolers learn to reverse engineer Lego robots using their knowledge of gear ratios and construction, building up to five robots a week. “We educated, empowered and excited them, and they didn’t even know,” museum executive director Angela Colton told the Houston Chronicle. The course shows students how fun working with technology can be while helping them develop skills like teamwork, problem solving and creativity.

Camp Susan Curtiss Provides Lifetime Lessons (Portland Press Herald, Maine)

Underprivileged youths rarely get to enjoy the opportunities that come with afterschool activities and summer camps. But for more than 40 years, Camp Susan Curtis in the foothills of western Maine has provided a place for economically disadvantaged students to participate in all the outdoor activities summer camp is known for while also providing free educational programs to build confidence and job skills for the future. All the campers come from disadvantaged homes and many are on the autism spectrum, but at Camp Susan Curtis they learn how to set goals, think critically about the world around them and build their self-esteem, the Portland Press Herald reports.

Full STEAM Ahead: Summer Camp Puts Students in the Laboratory (Auburn Journal, California)

Hundreds of Auburn students are learning about how rockets work, how to build robots and what happens when you mix Mentos with Diet Coke at summer camps all over the area. STEAM-based summer programs are popping up all over Auburn, from the Boys & Girls Club to the Colfax Library. The programs not only help stem the summer slide, but also focus on social-emotional learning, forging friendships, improving teamwork and creative problem-solving. “(Students) see a challenge and work to fix it. If it doesn’t work out great the first time they reassess,” Boys & Girls Club program director Jennifer Cross told the Auburn Journal. “It’s a great life lesson.”

Put Down Your Cell Phones and Learn How to Sew (Weston Forum, Connecticut)

Weston resident Gabriela Low thinks young people today spend too much time on their cell phones, so she has started running afterschool programs at Weston public schools encouraging students to work on hand-on creative projects, primarily sewing and knitting. The enrichment classes helps students build fine motor skills and give them a chance to work independently to develop their individual creativity. “When the kids complete a project in my class and see the end product, it raises their self-esteem and gives them something to feel good about,” Low told the Weston Forum. “Also, the process of sewing, knitting or braiding seems to help the kids focus and relax.” Low hopes to expand her program to the middle school and high school, where she would teach fashion design and other more complex programs. 



Start a Girls Who Code Club and help close the tech gender gap

By Erin Murphy

Girls Who Code is actively working to create a world in which men and women are represented equally in the ever-important technology industry. This year, Girls Who Code is looking to scale-up efforts through their afterschool clubs program. You can apply to be an official host site, and access free curriculum, teaching resources and support from Girls Who Code!

What is a Girls Who Code Club?

In a Girls Who Code Club, 6th to 12th grade girls explore coding in a fun and friendly environment. Students learn core computer science concepts through projects based on their interests, such as music, art or games. The curriculum is designed for students with varying experience levels, with lessons for students with zero coding experience or lessons that introduce college-level concepts. Field trips and guest speakers compliment the curriculum by demonstrating how these skills can be applied in the future. Additionally, this program provides girls a supportive community. They become part of a diverse sisterhood while gaining many female role models who are working at the world’s leading engineering and tech companies.

Become part of the movement

To get girls coding in your community, you can to host a club in either Fall 2016 or Spring 2017. All you need are computers, internet access, a facilitator (two is even better), and (of course) girls in 6th to 12th grade.

The lead facilitator can be an afterschool program employee or a community volunteer like a college student majoring in computer science or a tech industry professional. However, for the Fall 2016 session, the facilitator must have knowledge of programming fundamentals such as loops, conditionals, and functions. In Spring 2017, a newly-released curriculum will support non-technical facilitators, i.e. afterschool educators without prior knowledge of programming. If you need to recruit a tech-capable facilitator, here are some helpful resources:

If you are still having trouble finding someone to facilitate, Girls Who Code can help out! Just indicate this on your application.



Afterschool Spotlight: New York City Police Athletic League

By Robert Abare

This post is presented as part of the Afterschool Spotlight blog series, which tells the stories of the parents, participants and providers of afterschool programs. This post is also an installment in our new Afterschool & Law Enforcement series, which explores the ways afterschool programs are partnering with police to keep communities safe and growing strong. Last week's installment of the Afterschool & Law Enforcement series focused on motivations for partnerships.

Written by Matt Freeman

Since its founding on the eve of World War I, New York City’s Police Athletic League (PAL) has been a daily presence in the lives of New York City youth. Today, it serves upwards of 40,000 children a year at 24 sites that span all five of the city’s boroughs, providing afterschool and summer programming that includes healthy meals and snacks, as well as ample opportunity for exercise and sports.

What began decades ago as an effort to provide children with a safe place to play now provides tools and opportunities designed to set youth on a path to a healthy lifestyle.

“Sports have always been a core area for us,” says Marcel Braithwaite, director of center operations at PAL. “And we make a concerted effort with sports, not just for the kids who rise to the top and are candidates for high school sports, but for all kids. We make sports accessible to everyone, with a curriculum designed around teaching fundamentals—sportsmanship, how to play the game right, problem-solving, teamwork—things people don’t always associate with sports.”

In 2010, PAL’s health and fitness program took on an even more deliberate focus when the organization partnered with a local public school in Harlem to create the PAL Physical Education Program (PEP). Supported by a grant from the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program, PAL PEP began carefully measuring students’ progress toward specific fitness goals. PAL staffers led students through what amounted to a fitness pre-test at the beginning of the year, gauging individual participants’ fitness across a series of measures, including body mass index, cardio-vascular capacity, foot speed and other measures from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education standards. Subsequent measurements throughout the year allow PAL to track participants’ progress.

We make sports accessible to everyone, with a curriculum designed around teaching fundamentals

Over the four-year life of the grant, students regularly exceeded the state-recommended 150 weekly minutes of physical education, doubling the time they had spent in PE before the program began. “While other students around the city continued to struggle with obesity and youth fitness issues,” Braithwaite says, “in 2012-2013, 77 percent of our participants were either in the Healthy Fitness Zone for cardiovascular health, or had increased their laps run by 15 percent.” The program’s health and nutrition components also led to an 18.5 percent increase in the number of participants who reported eating fruit two or more times per day, and vegetables three or more times.