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MAY
2
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: Advice for advocates of afterschool

By Charlotte Steinecke

By Chris Neitzey, Policy Director for New York’s statewide afterschool network, the New York State Network for Youth Success. Chris can be reached at chris@networkforyouthsuccess.org.

As a follow up to my January 12 guest blog on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s afterschool proposal, I’m happy to report that the New York State budget, which was passed on April 9, includes $35 million in new funding to expand afterschool programming to 22,000 students across the state beginning in September 2017.

At a time when uncertainty surrounds the future of the 21st Century Community Learning Center Program, New York has begun to see the importance of directly investing in high-quality afterschool programs. The $35 million investment represents the largest annual increase the state of New York has ever made in afterschool programs, and with the funding targeted at cities and school districts in high-need areas, it’s a welcome acknowledgement of the role afterschool programs can play in addressing the needs of low-income families.

The end result of this year’s state budget may have been an overwhelming success for afterschool, but New York’s three month “budget session” was anything but easy for advocates. This was not the first time a large proposal to fund afterschool programs was put on the table by the governor, and advocates knew there would be a long battle ahead to secure this funding in the final budget.

Below are a few ways we kept the pressure on the governor and legislature to ensure this proposal became a reality:

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learn more about: Advocacy Guest Blog State Policy
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.

JAN
27
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: Outdoor education grant could change lives

By Rachel Clark

By Beth Wyant. Beth is the program coordinator of the afterschool program of the Northwest Community Action Center, a division of Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, and an Afterschool Ambassador for the Afterschool Alliance.

Mt. Rainier in Washington State.

I suppose every state in the union can brag about the natural wonders within its borders, but in Washington State, we're brimming with the glories of nature. We have Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helen's, the Columbia River Gorge, the Hoh rain forest (yes, you read that right, it's a rain forest!), and the world's longest peninsular beach (28 miles of it). Not surprisingly, we have an outdoor culture in Washington, with camping, backpacking, biking, climbing, swimming, kayaking and canoeing all seemingly hard-wired into many native Washingtonians.

Many, but not all. As the program coordinator of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers afterschool and summer program of the Northwest Community Action Center, a division of Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, I work with 1,600 youth from 15 different schools in the Lower Yakima Valley. It's common for these children from mostly low-income families to have grown up nearby, but never visited, our state's natural wonders. Last year, I went on an outdoor education trip to Mt. Rainer, during which 25 of our elementary students enjoyed a day of hiking. Only five had ever been in the area before, even though it's just 90 minutes away by car. Most had never laid eyes on a forest. Their sense of wonder was palpable; their eyes were wide, and they kept buzzing about the smell of the pine trees and the quiet of the forest.

That experience was part of what motivated us to apply for a "No Child Left Inside Grant" this year from the state Recreation and Conservation Office, which runs the state parks system. We heard about the grant program from School's Out Washington, which administers our state afterschool network. That prompted us to read up on the grant program on the parks system website, and then we put together a seven-page proposal. Ours was one of 122 applications from across the state, 19 of which were funded. We were the only one to receive the maximum grant amount of $125,000.

We are going to put it to good use. It will allow us to take our youth to state parks, teach them about conservation, explore Mt. St. Helen's, get them kayaking on lakes and rivers, take them camping - all things that many of them have never done before. And we are hoping we can get their parents and siblings to join us in some of our adventures, making it into a learning experience for the entire family. The money will also help us buy fishing gear, pay for season passes at state parks, and so much more.

Apart from introducing our students to the extraordinary natural beauty around them, and teaching them how the water in their taps at home is related to the water in the mighty Columbia River, it will give us a chance to teach them habits of fitness that can last a lifetime. We've long followed Healthy Eating and Physical Activity standards in our programming, and we've also implemented the state's SNAP-Ed program (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) to help students and families learn how to make healthy food choices. It includes trips to grocery stores, cooking classes, a community garden and more.

So if sometime soon you happen upon a group of wide-eyed children following the Lewis & Clark trail or taking in the Columbia River Gorge, it might just be us!

JAN
18
2017

POLICY
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Opportunities for afterschool abound as ESSA is implemented

By Jillian Luchner

President Obama signs the Every Student Succeeds Act into law.

In the New Year, states are busy getting ready for the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), to go into full effect with the start of the new 2017-18 school year.

In these final months of preparation, states are finishing first and second rounds of stakeholder engagement, releasing first and second drafts of their state ESSA plans, and finalizing plans and submitting to the federal Department of Education for review. Arizona already has submitted a plan—far ahead of the required April and September deadlines for plan submission.

At this stage, things are moving quickly—luckily, it's easy to keep up with what your state is doing with our new interactive map tool! This new resource puts links to state webpages and ESSA plans at your fingertips.

What are states working to accomplish?

The new law is an opportunity to re-envision education within the state. Unlike the previous federal education law, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), ESSA provides more flexibility to states to decide what they want to track and measure beyond the familiar requirement of student proficiency on statewide English language arts (ELA) and math tests.

Guided by stakeholder engagement, states are determining the outcomes they want to see for their students and creating a system of reporting, interventions and support to ensure that districts and schools help students make progress toward those goals.

JAN
12
2017

POLICY
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Guest blog: New York governor proposes $35M in new afterschool funding

By Rachel Clark

By Chris Neitzey, Policy Director for New York’s statewide afterschool network, the New York State Network for Youth Success. Chris can be reached at chris@networkforyouthsuccess.org.

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit.

On Monday, New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a $35 million expansion that would offer 22,000 additional students access to state-funded afterschool programs. This pilot program would significantly expand afterschool programs in 16 cities that were indentified in 2016 as Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative Areas.*

To put this proposal into context, New York State currently invests approximately $62 million directly into afterschool programs—the new pilot program will increase this investment by more than 50 percent.

Still, 22,000 new afterschool spaces will only go a small way toward meeting the needs of the estimated 1.1 million students across the state who still want access to a program. However, this investment is still significant in two ways.

First, if this proposal is included in the final state budget, which must be passed by April 1 according to state law, it will give 22,000 more New York students in high-poverty areas an opportunity to participate in an afterschool program as early as next school year.

Second, this would be the first large-scale state investment in afterschool since the 2008 recession, when funding was cut from $93 million in 2007-2008 to $57.4 million in 2014-2015. We’ve had some recent success over the past two years with getting smaller funding increases from the Legislature ($5 million in 2016), but Governor Cuomo’s proposal shows a clear recognition of the important role that afterschool programs play in helping combat poverty in low-income communities and in closing the achievement gap.

After years of advocacy by the Network and field on the importance of afterschool programs in keeping kids safe, helping working families, and supporting academic achievement, among other benefits, this is a welcome proposal and one that is much needed in New York. This was also proposed as a pilot program, so there is interest in expanding it if deemed successful. 

Over the next week, advocates in New York and across the country will be paying close attention to the release of the Governor’s Executive Budget Proposal. In it we should learn more about what the program will look like and the specific language laying out how it will be implemented.

In the meantime, the Network for Youth Success and our partners across the state will be gearing up to make sure this proposal becomes a reality on April 1, 2017.

*Those cities are Albany, the Bronx, Binghamton, Buffalo, Elmira, Hempstead, Jamestown, Newburgh, Niagara Falls, Oneonta, Oswego, Rochester, Syracuse, Troy, Utica, and Watertown.

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JAN
11
2017

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: January 11, 2017

By Luci Manning

Congressional Delays Leave Programs Hanging (News & Observer, North Carolina)

Writing in the News & Observer, Afterschool Ambassador Betsey McFarland explains the uncertainty that comes with congressional budget delays: “The delay in adopting a full-year federal budget means that states won’t know how much money they’ll have for 21st century grants to pass down to afterschool programs this year… At a time when there aren’t nearly enough afterschool programs to meet the need, our federal budget process should provide certainty and support – not present additional challenges.”

Governor Eyes New Child Care Credit (Daily Gazette, New York)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced two new proposals meant to ease the burden on working parents – a middle-class child care tax credit and a new pilot program to create afterschool slots in high-need areas, according to the Daily Gazette. The tax credit will help more than 200,000 families afford professional, quality day care, and the $35 million pilot program will aim to create 22,000 afterschool slots in places like Albany and Troy. “This newly enhanced credit will make it easier for more New Yorkers to be able to secure day care and able to enter or stay in the workforce with peace of mind,” Cuomo said.

Future Meets Steam Punk (La Porte County Herald-Argus, Indiana)

The FIRST Robotics Competition announced its theme for 2017 this weekend: connecting robotics to the steam engines that powered the Industrial Revolution. In this year’s game, teams will spend six weeks building robots that can gather fuel and gears for models of steam-powered airships for a timed competition. RoboBlitz team member Rishi Verma, a Michigan City high school senior, said the afterschool program has taught him about both engineering and how to work as a group. “It’s more than just building a robot. It builds character,” he told the La Porte County Herald-Argus.

Their Safe Place to Grow (Houston Chronicle, Texas)

Workshop Houston, an afterschool program that started as a bike repair shop, has been giving youths from troubled backgrounds a place to learn and try new things for more than a decade. Workshop Houston has four different activities for students to participate in—fashion design, music, dance and tutoring—and provides a safe haven for those who may have nowhere else to go after school. “We’re dealing with children in gangs, coming from toxic homes,” Bryant Christopher, who oversees the tutoring program, told the Houston Chronicle. “If this program didn’t exist, who knows where they would be?” 

NOV
28
2016

RESEARCH
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New report sees how state policies can promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity

By Robert Abare

This post was originally published by the Healthy Out-of-School Time Coalition.

new report from RTI International examines an emerging trend that uses state policy to promote healthy eating and physical activity in afterschool and other out-of-school-time (OST) programs. Based on stakeholder interviews and state case studies, the authors conclude that the state policy approach holds significant promise if it avoids creating unfunded mandates.

Jean Wiecha and Kristen Capogrossi of RTI International, in "Using State Laws and Regulations to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity in Afterschool Programs," explain that the National AfterSchool Association Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Standards, developed by HOST in 2011, have offered comprehensive guidance to the OST field on how to promote healthy eating and physical activity. Large national organizations have adopted some or all of these standards in their programs--but recent studies suggest that about 40 percent of NAA members still have not heard of them. State or local laws present one option to increase awareness, uptake, and implementation of these standards,

Wiecha and Capogrossi therefore interviewed nine experts who were knowledgeable about the NAA HEPA Standards and active in national OST policy, advocacy, and service issues. They also conducted case studies in California and North Carolina, which have had recent experience with legislation in this area. They concluded:

Under the right circumstances and when crafted the right way, state policy approaches have the potential to result in faster, more equitable, and more thorough improvements to healthy eating and physical activity in OST settings compared with the status quo focus on private-sector dissemination and training efforts. Regulation that uses incentives and voluntary participation could result in increasing the number of OST programs promoting health among children and their families in low-resource communities. In addition, regulation (especially when integrated with existing OST regulation) could serve to elevate healthy eating and physical activity to the same level of importance as other regulated OST quality content areas.

At the same time, the authors caution that "policy efforts should proceed carefully in order to allow the field the opportunity to identify which best practices in policy design maximize benefit and minimize risk," and suggest that different states may wish to move forward at different speeds. They add, "Policy efforts should explicitly identify and mitigate the risk of creating unfunded mandates, which may have the unintended consequence of widening quality gaps between high- and low-resources sites or, worse, drive low-resource sites out of business by imposing costs and other burdens involved with the improvement process."

The report was commissioned by the Healthy Eating Research Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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learn more about: Health and Wellness State Policy