The Administration released its budget request for FY2015 last week and STEM education has fared quite well overall. Although the reorganization of STEM education programs across various federal agencies has been proposed again, this year’s version is less drastic and doesn't suggest transferring funds between agencies. Thirty-one programs across nine agencies, totaling $145 million, would be consolidated or eliminated under the plan, which is a much smaller number than the 78 programs proposed in last year's budget request. See the high-level list and explanation here (pgs. 153 and 157).
The overall federal STEM funding level would be $2.9 billion under the request, an increase of 3.7 percent over the FY2014 enacted level. Some of the funding for STEM education at agencies such as NASA, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the National Science Foundation (NSF) would be restored, which is very good news for informal science education programs and providers.
At the Department of Education, $110 million is requested for STEM Innovation Networks; the funds would be used to “award grants to school districts in partnership with colleges and other regional partners to transform STEM teaching and learning by accelerating the adoption of practices in P-12 education that help to increase the number students who seek out and are well-prepared for postsecondary education and careers in STEM fields.” If the program and funds materialize, there may be opportunities here for afterschool networks and providers to collaborate with school districts.
On March 3, just one day before the president released his FY2015 budget proposal, the House Budget Committee issued a report on federal spending related to federal antipoverty efforts entitled The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later. Among the 92 federal programs reviewed in the report is the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative.
The Budget Committee report seeks to examine the effectiveness of Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson’s "War on Poverty" that was launched 50 years ago. According to the report, there are at least 92 federal programs designed to help lower-income Americans, including education and job-training programs, food-aid programs and housing programs.
The report does include a brief entry on the 21st CCLC initiative, the only coordinated federal effort that supports afterschool, before-school and summer learning programs delivered by local schools and community-based organizations. 21st CCLC programs provide students attending high-poverty schools with academic enrichment activities; a broad array of additional services designed to reinforce and complement the regular academic program such as hands-on experiments to excite children about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), access to physical activity, drug and violence prevention programs, counseling programs, art, music, opportunities to be creative, and technology education programs; as well as literacy and related educational development services to the families of children who are served in the program. In addition, afterschool programs provide an infrastructure to bring in other resources to our children including access to mentors, tutors, and nutritious snacks and meals.
Today Pres. Obama released his budget request for the upcoming 2015 fiscal year, which begins this October. With regard to support for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative, the president requested $1.149 billion—reflecting the same level for 21stCCLC as was in the FY2014 omnibus bill that passed in January. As was the case in his budget request last year, the president proposes to radically change 21st CCLC to a competitive grant at the federal level as well as to prioritize 21st CCLC grant funding for new purposes including adding time to the traditional school day or year, and for teacher planning and professional development.
According to the discussion of the budget request for the Department of Education:
Funds would support competitive grants to states, local education agencies, nonprofit organizations, or local governmental entities for projects that provide the additional time, support, and enrichment activities needed to improve student achievement, including projects that support expanding learning time by significantly increasing the number of hours in a regular school schedule and by comprehensively redesigning the school schedule for all students in a school. Projects could also provide teachers the time they need to collaborate, plan, and engage in professional development within and across grades and subjects.
By Luci Manning
Cut out Junk Food Ads in Schools, Government Says (Associated Press, National)
Yesterday, first lady Michelle Obama announced that the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the National Recreation and Park Association will serve more fruits and vegetables at afterschool programs and ensure kids get 30-60 minutes of physical activity a day. The announcement was part of the fourth anniversary of the first lady’s “Let’s Move” initiative. Mrs. Obama said “This new approach to eating and activity is not just a fad," the Associated Press reports.
Later Gator, the new afterschool program at Lake Cormorant Elementary, offers a “life-changing experience” for its students, the Desoto Times reports. Dr. Margaret Boyd, Lake Cormorant Elementary school principal and founder of Later Gator, said she started the program to help “working parents whose jobs often prevent them from helping children with their homework.”
Empowerment Circle Expands Horizons (Marion Star, Ohio)
Members of the Girls Empowerment Circle at Grant Middle School and Marion Harding High School are learning about dating violence so they can educate themselves and other students about healthy relationships. The group, which is funded by 21st Century Community Learning Center grant, is comprised of about 13 to 15 girls who are dedicated to helping their peers make smart life decisions. Not only do they help others by providing important information and resources, but organizer Rosalind Burks explains to the Marion Star that the program encourages girls to set goals for themselves, engage in community service and to continue their education after graduating from high school.
STEM Pilot Exposes Young to Tech, Science Careers (Journal-News, Ohio)
Elementary and junior high students in Hamilton will be able to enjoy a new afterschool program focused primarily on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education starting next month. Tyrome Bembry, founder of the new pilot program STEM2Dream program, told the Journal-News that the program is targeting kids from an under-served neighborhood because “STEM education will give them the ability to dream. It’s a tool they can use to fight the war on poverty.”
Yesterday at a Miami-area afterschool program, first lady Michelle Obama and the Partnership for a Healthier America announced that two more of the largest afterschool program providers have committed to create more healthful environments for five million kids in their programs through adoption of the Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards.
Over the next five years, Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) and the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) have committed to encouraging a combined 5,400 sites and clubs nationwide to adopt strong standards for nutrition and physical activity.
In remarks at the event, the first lady applauded the announcement, “Between today’s announcement and our work to serve better food and get more activity into our schools, we’re now ensuring that more and more of our kids will be staying healthy throughout the entire arc of their day.” She added, students “… are getting active through the day, whether that’s during recess, or PE class, or during an exercise break between lessons. And when the school day ends, they’ll head to an afterschool program like this one, and they’ll get even more nutritious food and even more opportunities to get active.”
This month marks the 21st anniversary of the enactment of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the historic legislation signed into law by Pres. Clinton in 1993 that has done so much to support working families. Given the new focus in Washington on supporting working families, it is worthwhile to revisit another legacy of the Clinton administration that has also been tremendously helpful for millions of working mothers and fathers during the past decade: the 21stCentury Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative.
Quality afterschool and summer learning programs funded through the 21st CCLC initiative provide a safe and engaging place for more than 1.6 million children and youth while their parents are at work. We know that parents with children in afterschool programs are less stressed, have fewer unscheduled absences and are more productive at work. However, with 15 million school-age children unsupervised between the hours of 3 and 6 p.m. on weekdays, the need for afterschool programs far outstrips the availability. As detailed in our 2011 issue brief, “Afterschool and Working Families in Wake of the Great Recession,” the gap between work and school schedules amounts to as much as 25 hours per week, which presents working parents whose children are not served by 21st CCLC or another afterschool program with the expensive challenge of finding someone to care for their children while they are at work.
In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama called for preschool programs for every 4-year-old—an idea that 30 states are funding. Providing early education for youngsters who haven’t started school is an idea whose time has come. So is supporting after-school programs for elementary school students. Researcher Deborah Vandell explains why.
Vandell, founding dean of the School of Education at the University of California-Irvine, is a distinguished education researcher focusing on issues of P-20 education and longitudinal studies of development.
Without a doubt, digital learning has been a buzzword in education circles for a while now. Some call it 21st century learning, some call it common sense and others call it a fad. There’s a general consensus, however, that our education system struggles to keep up with the rate of change in the world around it. For every innovative school and afterschool program, there are countless more with inadequate access to technology and with a limited understanding of its potential. The task of modernizing our education system may seem somewhat daunting, but I must say that this year’s Digital Learning Day and Pres. Obama’s recent remarks about plans for ConnectED left me feeling pretty hopeful that we’re on the brink of a real shift in how we think about what it takes to expand access to digital learning opportunities.
Unsurprisingly, funding is often viewed as a road block to progress. It takes money to build the infrastructure, more money to buy the technology, and still more money for maintenance and professional development. Let’s face it—digital learning is expensive, and increased funding is not necessarily the easiest thing to come by.