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Afterschool advocates talk 21st CCLC, Higher Education Act, and child nutrition on Capitol Hill

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Afterschool advocates talk 21st CCLC, Higher Education Act, and child nutrition on Capitol Hill

It has been one week since my favorite days of the year: hundreds of students, parents, providers and other advocates took to Capitol Hill for the Afterschool for All Challenge. The 18th Afterschool for All Challenge featured almost 200 individuals from 41 states in more than 175 meetings with their senators and representatives. In addition to the 175 in-person meetings, more than 8,800 emails and calls to Congress were made by advocates nationwide in support of afterschool and summer learning programs.

This year advocates had four main messages for members of Congress, all focusing on the bottom line that afterschool works to help young people be successful in school and in life:

  • Protect and increase funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative to $1.32 billion—an increase of $100 million over the current level—to provide access to quality afterschool, before-school, and summer learning opportunities for an additional 100,000 students across all 50 states. While 21st Century Community Learning Centers currently serves 1.7 million students, millions more low-income students are eligible for Community Learning Centers programs. Students who regularly participate in 21st Century Community Learning Centers improve their school attendance, class participation and behavior, homework completion, and reading and math achievement scores and grades.
  • Increase federal funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) to ensure access to quality school-age care. Roughly one-third of children served through the Child Care and Development Fund are school-aged, including those who participate in afterschool and summer learning programs. CCDBG helps working parents by providing quality school-age care for children both after school and during the summer.
  • In reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA), maintain or increase the mandatory 7 percent set aside in the Federal Work Study program (Title IV of the Higher Education Act) which supports students working in community service organizations, including afterschool programs. Placing federal work study students in not-for-profit and community service settings like afterschool programs accomplishes the goal of providing more work-based learning experience for students. HEA can also better support teacher pipeline programs that include afterschool programs and build on policies that foster strong partnership between colleges and universities and afterschool programs.
  • In reauthorizing the Child Nutrition Act, adjust the area eligibility test for afterschool and summer nutrition programs to match the eligibility level for 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding. Federal nutrition programs offer reimbursement for snacks and meals for all children in an afterschool or summer program in a low-income area, defined as an area with more than 50 percent of children eligible for free or reduced price school meals. Lowering the threshold to match the eligibility for 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding (40 percent) would increase the number of children and communities that have access to nutritious meals and learning opportunities.

The voices of advocates were joined by congressional champions during the Afterschool Showcase in the Senate Dirksen Building. A kick-off event on June 11, the Showcase featured afterschool activities from programs based in Texas, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.

  • House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) spoke to the 200 advocates, emphasizing the importance of afterschool opportunities for young people. He congratulated participants at the event and thanked longtime champions of afterschool, both on and off the Hill, including Afterschool Alliance Board Chair Terry K. Peterson.
  • U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) also congratulated the assembled afterschool supporters for their advocacy efforts, noting that the range of afterschool activities demonstrated in the showcase were “a reminder of what we’re doing to keep young people active and engaged, to keep those brains firing, because when the school day is over at 3:00 that doesn’t mean that the learning stops; that doesn’t mean that the caring stops.... These programs are so much to so many.” Noting that “it takes a lot to ensure” that afterschool programs continue, she concluded that “Our responsibility, each one of us, is to embrace...the good and bring out the extraordinary potential in our young people... Year in, year out, know that you can count on me.”
  • Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.) said that “Afterschool programs are absolutely critical... They’re an investment in the future and in American businesses… I think that American business has come to understand workers, men and women, who know that their children are safe and in a productive, safe setting can work a full day.”
  • Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) thanked the afterschool providers in the room for their work. “Our youth, our school kids, are sometimes forgotten after the bell rings... And what you do ... is so important,” he said. “We have an awful lot of good students,” he continued, and “they just need a little help sometimes. That makes me confident about the future of this great nation of ours.” Rep. Young also spoke about the bipartisan Summer Meals Act which he recently reintroduced with Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.).

It’s not too late to join the effort in support of afterschool and summer learning programs! Congress needs to hear your voice in support of $100M more for afterschool! Reach out to Congress today—and if you’ve already sent an email, make a phone call to tell your elected officials directly that we can’t afford to lose the programs millions of kids and families rely on.

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