The Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO) Council was established by the Texas Legislature in 2013 in order to improve quality and access to expanded learning opportunities in the state, including afterschool and summer programs. On November 1, the ELO Council published its first report, 2016-2017 Statewide Strategic Plan for Expanded Learning Opportunities, with the support of the Texas Partnership for Out of School Time (TXPOST). In the report, the council states that “high-quality ELO programs provide safe places, support economic growth, and help close the academic achievement gap by offering supplemental activities that support but do not replicate the general education program.”
After more than a month-long recess leading up to the mid-term elections, Members of Congress are back in the Nation’s capitol and will be in session starting on Wednesday, November 12th for a “Lame Duck” session that must finalize the FY 2015 appropriations spending bills to fund federal government operations for the period December 12, 2014, through September 30, 2015. The government is currently funded through a continuing resolution (CR) at FY 2014 levels.
The Bipartisan Budget Act that passed in December 2013 capped discretionary spending at $1.014 trillion in FY 2015 – essentially the mid-point between Senate budget level of $1.058 trillion and the House budget level of $967 billion. The agreement restored $63 billion in sequestration cuts over two years, split evenly between defense and nondefense discretionary spending programs. Nondefense discretionary spending (which includes most federal support for afterschool and summer learning programs though the Department of Education and Health and Human Services) is capped at $492.4 billion in FY 2015, however that will change going into FY 2016 at which time nondefense discretionary spending faces a $43 billion (8 percent) cut, unless Congress acts to reverse sequestration.
After more than a year of anticipation, the 2014 midterm elections finally came and (mostly) went this week. With a few races still not officially decided, the headline is that the Republican Party will take over as the majority in the Senate in the next Congress with at least 52 seats, and they also added to their majority in the House. The 114th Congress, when it is sworn in early next year, will be one half of a divided government in Washington, opposite President Obama in the White House.
The shift in control of Congress is potentially historic. In the House, the Republicans increased their majority to at least 243 seats, with Republican candidates leading in several undecided races. It is possible the Republican Party will control as many as 250 seats in the House, the largest Republican House majority since 1928.
With Lights On Afterschool upon us and fresh on the heels of the new America After 3PM (AA3) data, two additional reports further make the case for supporting afterschool and summer learning programs. This week, Opportunity Nation released the 2014 Opportunity Index and the Children’s Leadership Council announced a new public opinion poll showing strong support for investing in effective programs that improve the lives of children and youth.
The Opportunity Index is an annual composite measure at the state and county levels of 16 economic, educational and civic factors that expand or restrict upward mobility. The Opportunity Index ranks all 50 states plus Washington, D.C., and found that access to opportunity has increased by more than 6 percent nationwide since the first iteration of the Index in 2011. Much of this growth is due to large improvements on specific economic and educational indicators (such as the unemployment rate, Internet access and on-time high school graduation rate). There was less robust improvement on civic indicators such as access to healthful food, volunteerism and access to health care. In spite of gains in opportunity overall, the Index also shows that this progress is not enough to ensure that all Americans, particularly teens and young adults, get their fair shot at the American Dream. In particular, while the number of young Americans ages 16-24 who are neither in school nor working dropped significantly since 2013—from 5.8 million to 5.6 million in 2014—the four-year trend is more modest: there were 5.66 million disconnected youth in 2011. Afterschool and summer learning programs, particularly for older youth, can help close the opportunity gap by engaging young people through quality college and career readiness programs.
Nutritious meals provided to children during afterschool and summer learning programs have the dual effect of nourishing students while making them more apt to learn and benefit from enriching activities. And according to Baltimore’s Holabird Academy Principal Anthony Ruby, the shared meals also build a sense of community that helps foster student success. Legislation to strengthen out-of-school-time child nutrition programs could increase this positive impact on young people.
On Oct. 8, Mr. Ruby joined Crystal FitzSimmons of the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), Elena Rocha of the YMCA of the USA, and Terri Kerwawich of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department in addressing Congressional staff during a briefing on Capitol Hill focusing on feeding children year-round through the afterschool and summer meal programs.
A standing-room only crowd of policy makers, advocates and media heard about the vital role played by the At-Risk Afterschool Meals and the Summer Nutrition programs in providing nutritious food for hungry children when school is out of session:
With 12 days remaining in the current federal fiscal year, both chambers approved a continuing resolution (CR) late last week ensuring that the federal government will be funded and operational through Dec. 11. The stopgap measure is funded at $1 trillion, which is less than the Senate would like but more than the Budget Control Act actually allows. Once the bill expires in mid-December, Congress will have to decide whether to extend the CR a few more months until the next Congress gets organized, or to go ahead and fund federal operations for the remainder of the fiscal year. It's not too late to reach out to your representative and senators to encourage their support of afterschool programs.
Congress is now in recess until after the Nov. 4 election. The Senate has already announced its Nov. 12 return. When Congress returns it will resume as a lame duck session that could address a number of issues in addition to the CR. Many Members of Congress will be in their districts campaigning next month, which presents an excellent opportunity to invite incumbents and candidates to Lights On Afterschool celebrations as a way to raise awareness of the impact that afterschool and summer learning programs have on children, youth, their families and communities.
Pres. Obama was joined by Former Pres. Bill Clinton last Friday for a special AmeriCorps swearing-in ceremony on the White House lawn in celebration of the program’s 20th anniversary. Several thousand AmeriCorps volunteers were sworn into service at more than 80 ceremonies across the country.
The first class of AmeriCorps volunteers were sworn into service on Sept. 12, 1994. Since that day, more than 900,000 volunteers have worked with community organizations across the country, particularly those providing afterschool and summer learning programs. AmeriCorps currently engages more than 75,000 men and women at more than 15,000 locations including nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community- and faith-based groups across the country. During their year of service, AmeriCorps members help communities with a wide range of issues including disaster services, economic opportunity, education and healthy futures. AmeriCorps volunteers are a key part of the afterschool workforce. They provide essential staffing for many programs, where they mentor, teach skills such as computer programming, and coach sports. AmeriCorps members make it possible for afterschool programs to serve children and youth in many communities.
Jim Jeffords: A founder of the movement to expand afterschool programs, a hero to children and families
By Jodi Grant
This post was originally published on Huffington Post's Education Blog. Read the original post and share your thoughts with the HuffPost community.
Before former Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont introduced the first legislation to provide federal funding for afterschool in 1994, the federal government played essentially no role in providing meaningful support and programming for young people in the hours after the school day ended and before parents arrived home from work. Sen. Jeffords, who passed away on Aug. 18 at the age of 80, was a pioneer in the national afterschool movement. He worked tirelessly to build congressional and presidential support for a national afterschool and summer learning program infrastructure that lives on today as the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative (21st CCLC).
Sen. Jeffords had many proud accomplishments, including chairing the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and helping to shape the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the No Child Left Behind Act and the Higher Education Act. But advocates for afterschool remember him best as one of the original authors of the legislation that created the 21st CCLC.