On Tuesday, Pres. Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union (SOTU) address. As anticipated, the speech focused largely on policies to address income disparity in the United States, with special attention to education, workforce development and opportunities to learn. Featured prominently were a number of the White House’s existing education policy issues including the early childhood education initiative, the need to make college more accessible and affordable and support for more and better workforce and job training programs to put more Americans to work in better jobs.
Education was at the forefront in the president’s speech: he led with, “Today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a student who needed it, and did her part to lift America’s graduation rate to its highest level in more than three decades.” Among his examples of work done to increase learning opportunities for young people was the recent College Opportunity Summit, where 150 universities, businesses and nonprofits made concrete commitments to reduce inequality in access to higher education.
In his speech, the president laid out multiple education priorities saying, “Of course, it’s not enough to train today’s workforce. We also have to prepare tomorrow’s workforce, by guaranteeing every child access to a world-class education.” He hailed the success of the Race to the Top initiative, saying the program “has helped states raise expectations and performance...Teachers and principals in schools from Tennessee to Washington, D.C., are making big strides in preparing students with skills for the new economy—problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering and math.”
During his 2013 State of the Union Address, Pres. Obama vowed to make drastic changes to America’s high schools in order to meet the needs of our global economy. The Administration’s most recent step toward fulfilling this promise is through the introduction of the Youth CareerConnect Grants, a new collaboration between the departments of Education and Labor. There continues to be a great deal of discussion about better aligning high school curriculum with the needs of the workforce, and many other countries have pursued rigorous and relevant career-focused education at an older youth level.
In response to our need for a 21st century education and workforce system, the Obama administration announced their newest competitive program, in which $100 million in the Department of Labor revenues from the H-1B visa program will be made available through grants. This money will be used to fund 25-40 grants for individual or multi-site projects. Grantees must demonstrate strong public/private partnerships and are required to provide a match of 25 percent of the grant award. Some examples of who grantees can collaborate with are local education agencies, local workforce investment system entities, an employer, or an institution of higher learning.
By Shaun Gray
The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities—in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services—is pleased to invite applications for the 2014 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards.
The 12 award-winning programs this year will receive $10,000 and an invitation to accept their award from the President’s Committee’s Honorary Chairman, First Lady Michelle Obama, at a ceremony at the White House. In addition, winners will receive an award plaque, the opportunity to attend the Annual Awardee Conference in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 2014, and will be featured on the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award website.
Afterschool and out-of-school-time arts and humanities programs sponsored by museums, libraries, performing arts organizations, educational institutions (e.g., preschools; elementary, middle, and high schools; universities; and colleges), arts centers, community service organizations, businesses, and eligible government entities are encouraged to consider submitting an application. Programs applying for the award must meet all of the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award’s eligibility criteria.
I enjoy every opportunity I have to listen and learn firsthand about issues related to the afterschool field, and last week was no exception. I was excited to be able to attend Washington Post Live’s 2013 Childhood Obesity Summit, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), and hear directly from policy makers, experts and advocates about childhood obesity—an issue very much of concern to afterschool. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of RWJF, kicked off the event emphasizing the recent progress we’ve made as a nation in regard to turning a corner on childhood obesity rates as rates decrease in cities across the country. Yet despite this progress—which was made possible through a variety of actions and actors, including afterschool programs—there’s still much more work to be done.
In my opinion, her most significant point was that right now, we understand better than ever before what works and what doesn’t to fight the childhood obesity epidemic. Dr. Janet Collins, associate director for program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reinforced this point during her panel discussion, referring to childhood obesity as one of our “winnable battles.”
By Jodi Grant
Last week I had the honor of attending a Let’s Move! Active Schools event with First Lady Michelle Obama at Orr Elementary School in southeast Washington, D.C. The event highlighted D.C. Public Schools’ (DCPS) new commitment to engaging all of its students in at least five hours per week of physical activity—including during the hours before and after school.
It’s always a privilege to be in the presence of the First Lady, but I was especially pleased to hear her passion for keeping our children healthy—something the afterschool community does every day by providing opportunities for physical activity and nutrition to students across the country.
The First Lady, NBA star Shaquille O’Neal and DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson gave remarks on the key role educators and schools play in encouraging children to engage in healthy habits and physical activity. In her remarks, Chancellor Henderson lauded local afterschool programs—particularly DC SCORES—for the key contributions they make toward teaching students healthy habits and preparing them for success both in and out of school.
This guest post was written by Cara Lesser, founder of the Kids International Discovery Museum (KID Museum), an emerging museum in Montgomery County, MD. KID Museum’s mission is to cultivate children's creativity, curiosity and compassion through playful exploration of the world with a focus on three core programmatic areas: 1) international culture; 2) science, technology, engineering, art and math, and 3) social responsibility. Learn more about KID museum at www.kid-museum.org.
On Sept. 29, D.C. area families will have a new opportunity to spark their kids’ imaginations when the first official Maker Faire comes to the D.C. region. Maker Faires are family-friendly festivals celebrated as the “Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth.” Hundreds of thousands of people attend flagship Maker Faire events around the world, where “makers” showcase imaginative creations that will educate and engage people of all ages and backgrounds.
The current Prime Minister of Australia has proposed a new initiative that would assist working parents by providing $A450 million (Australian Dollars) to boost afterschool programs in the country. The pledge was made as part of the Prime Minister’s recently launched re-election campaign. Last month the Australian press covered the shortage of afterschool programs for working parents.
The extra funding would be provided under the government's Better Schools plan and would involve support for about 500 schools interested in starting afterschool programs or enhancing current programs. The before-school and afterschool programs could open as early as 7 a.m. and run until 7 p.m., with extra hours provided during school holidays.
According to the Prime Minister’s press release, the afterschool program funding would cover new services, such as music programs, supervised sport and homework clubs, with grants of up to $A200,000 available to schools. The initiative, to start next year, would benefit 345,000 children aged 5 to 12 years old. The Prime Minister’s proposal harkens back to President Obama’s 2008 campaign pledge to double afterschool funding in the US—a campaign promise that has yet to be fulfilled.
The Obama administration has for some time been supporting the expansion of learning time in school—which sounds useful but often isn’t—by diverting money intended for afterschool programs, many of which are high quality and offer different venues for kids to learn. Our Executive Director Jodi Grant explains what's at stake.