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Acting Ed Secretary John B. King says he's a believer in afterschool

By Jillian Luchner

This week, elected officials in the House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce had an opportunity to ask their questions to Acting Secretary of Education John B. King regarding the newly passed federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and its implementation at a hearing entitled “Next Steps for K-12 Education.”

About an hour and a quarter into the hearing, the conversation turned to marshmallow pizzas and afterschool.

Representative and afterschool champion Lou Barletta (R-PA) asked the Secretary about the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program in Title IV of the law, highlighting the program as “the only federal funding source for our nation’s afterschool programs which students and working families rely on each and every day”. Barletta provided details about the SHINE (Schools and Homes in Education) afterschool program in his home state of Pennsylvania, mentioning that the program was 49 percent supported by 21st CCLC. Barletta had recently visited a program where students were using computer software to design a profitable restaurant, and where he was able to create and consume a marshmallow pizza as a result.

Barletta additionally spoke of the bi-partisan work he does in his state to support these programs, as well as the bipartisan agreements in Congress that supported the final federal legislation for 21st CCLC, noting “helping our kids succeed should always be a bipartisan cause”. As a result of this bipartisanship and demonstrated success, he asked Secretary King, “Do you anticipate any variance from the law when it comes to implementation of the 21st CCLC program and can you commit that the administration will work to support the programs?”

Secretary King, responded that the 21st CCLC program had his support. “I am certainly a strong believer in the power of afterschool programs.” Drawing from his personal experience as a middle school principal, he continued, “For some kids, afterschool is the time they would be most at risk if they didn’t have the time to be engaged in a meaningful, engaging program at school or in a community based organizations.” King completed his statement by noting that these kinds of investments— including afterschool programs, Promise Neighborhoods, and programs that cover weekends, summers and vacations—“can make a huge difference in kids’ lives.”

You can watch the conversation yourself at about minute 1:19 of the hearing. Further along in the hearing, Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) also mentioned their support for afterschool.

King will be appearing in front of Congress again today—this time for his Senate Confirmation Hearing as he officially replaces Arne Duncan in the role of Secretary of Education.