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Snacks by Jillian Luchner
APR
13
2017

POLICY
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Letters send wave of afterschool support to Capitol Hill

By Jillian Luchner

On April 10, the Afterschool Alliance released a letter signed by 139 national and more than 1,000 state and local organizations, calling on House and Senate appropriators to fund the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative at or above its current level of $1.167 billion and reject President Trump’s call to end federal funding for afterschool programs.

Also on Monday, Representatives Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.) sent a bipartisan Dear Colleague letter signed by 81 members of Congress to House Appropriations Committee leaders Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) with a similar message, calling for “funding of no less than $1.167 billion” for Community Learning Centers. The letter was applauded by afterschool advocates and the Afterschool Alliance.

Inside the sign-on letter

“Quality afterschool and summer learning programs are vital to communities across the nation,” said Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant in releasing the organizational letter. “The idea that the federal government would abandon the students and families that rely on afterschool is unthinkable. President Trump’s misguided proposal to eliminate 21st Century Community Learning Centers has triggered a tidal wave of opposition that’s reflected by the diverse and powerful voices that are calling on Congress to continue—or increase—federal funding for afterschool. This funding directly supports afterschool programs for 1.6 million children across the country.”

National signatories of the letter include youth-serving organizations, education groups, and organizations focused on hunger, fitness, gender equity, health, the arts, and law enforcement, among others. The list was signed by the American Federation of Teachers, American Heart Association, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, FBI National Academies, Girl Scouts of the USA, National Association of State Boards of Education, National School Boards Association, National Education Association, National League of Cities, National PTA, National Rural Education Association, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, STEM Education Coalition, United Way Worldwide, and YMCA of the USA.

The list of state and local organizational signatories is similarly broad, with signers from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The letter is addressed to the chairs and ranking members of key appropriations subcommittees in the House and Senate.

The organizations wrote, “In every state and almost every Congressional district, 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding supports afterschool and summer learning programs that offer locally based school and community solutions that keep children and teenagers safe, inspire young people to learn and support working families.”

Inside the Dear Colleague letter

In the Dear Colleague letter to appropriators in the House, the 81 signing representatives called for at least level funding of 21st Century Community Learning Centers, citing a meta-analysis of 75 separate studies which showed that afterschool students demonstrated improved behavior and performed better academically than students who did not participate in afterschool.

The letter also mentioned the impact programs have on the workforce: “More and more working families rely on 21st Century Community Learning Centers each year to ensure their children are in a safe environment during non-school hours, allowing them to excel in their jobs.”

In the face of a dire threat from the White House, this outpouring of support is encouraging to the afterschool field.

“It’s clear from these two letters that policymakers, educators, parents and a wide variety of organizations, including those focused on health, law enforcement, science education, arts and more, recognize the tremendous value afterschool programs provide,” said Grant. “The president’s proposal to eliminate Community Learning Centers doesn’t have any more traction around the country than it does here in Washington. It is up to Congress to make sure the federal budget reflects this clearly expressed demand for continued, even increased, federal support for afterschool.”

Last year, a similar congressional letter was signed by 40 members. This year’s 81 signatures show a doubling of congressional support for Community Learning Centers, which Trump’s February budget outline put on the chopping block.

What's next?

Members of Congress (find yours here) are on recess and back in their home states and districts. It’s a great time to contact them about the importance of before-school, afterschool, and summer programming to you and you community.

There are lots of ways to get in touch with your representatives and show your support: send your representatives a letter or an email, post on social media, make a phone call, pay a visit to their local office, talk to them at town hall meetings or press events, or invite them to come and see your local program at work. You can also write to your local newspaper or TV station, since lawmakers will be sure to catch up on the local news while at home.

With big budget decisions on the horizon, the voices your representatives hear now and their frequency, diversity, and strength are more critical than ever before. The letters and calls in support of afterschool are streaming in and the strategy is working to influence policymakers. Add your voice and personal story to the chorus. 2017 is an important year for the children, families, and communities who need affordable quality afterschool!

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learn more about: Budget Congress Federal Funding
APR
6
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Tools to Build On: Creating constructive climates in out-of-school time

By Jillian Luchner

The recent national dialogue and policy landscape has exposed children of all ages to complex discussions about immigration, religion, diversity, safety, and community. In a climate of uncertainty, students can end up feeling frustrated, hurt, alienated, or confused if these often-taboo subjects are not confronted thoughtfully by adults.

Many tools of the trade exist to help students engage constructively and understand themselves, their peers, their community, and their country. When led by trained, well-equipped staff, afterschool and summer programs can provide ideal settings with the necessary time and structure for students to work through complex thoughts and emotions and develop their roles in safe and welcoming communities.

Over the next year, the Afterschool Alliance and a broad range of partners will present “Tools to Build On,” a webinar series of expert testimony, discussions, resources, and firsthand accounts on how to bring out and build up supportive climates during out-of-school time. The first four topics are:

  • Supporting immigrant students, families, and communities: Best practices for afterschool programs interacting with immigrant students and families (Wednesday, April 12 at 2 p.m. EDT). Register now.
  • Understanding and responding to identity-based bullying: Current frameworks and strategies for educators and youth bystanders (May 2017).
  • Building community between police and youth: Working to build positive and productive relationships between children and teens and law enforcement (June 2017).
  • Engaging the tough conversation: Learning the skills and tools to help students confront complex issues and feelings in a safe space (July 2017).

All kids deserve to feel welcome, valuable, and safe without exception. These four webinars are just a start, and we’ll be offering more webinars, practical tools, and resources in the coming year. Please join the Afterschool Alliance for this important series.

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.

MAR
21
2017

POLICY
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Medicaid cuts affect student services in school

By Jillian Luchner

The new administration and Congress are considering changes to current federal health care law, including the components known as the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare,” Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Discussions suggest Medicaid, medical aid to low-income families, may be cut by as much as 25 percent.

School districts use Medicaid funding for a number of student services, such as paying for medical supports required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and providing diagnostic screenings and treatments for issues that directly affect children’s well-being and in-class performance, like vision and hearing concerns, diabetes, and asthma. A recent survey by the School Superintendents Association reports that Medicaid dollars also fund health professionals, provide outreach and coordination of services to students, expand health-related services, and give students with disabilities the technologies they need for an equitable education. A table of state by state expenditures on school based services showcases how important the federal contribution is to schools and students.

Schools that continue to fund these necessary services in the face of cuts would have to find the money to fill gaps somewhere, which would mean less money channeled to other programs for schools and students. Organizations like the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) oppose the cuts and argue that these services for children constitute investments.

“Children with health coverage are more likely to attend school, graduate from high school, go to college, and become healthier adults with higher taxable earnings than uninsured children. Ensuring children and their parents have access to the medically necessary services they need from providers trained to serve children is critical to positive outcomes,” a CDF sign-on letter to Congress on potential health care reform reports. “We urge you to commit to build on the progress made over the past five decades to expand and improve health coverage for children, and, at a minimum, to “do no harm.”

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learn more about: Federal Policy Health and Wellness
MAR
10
2017

POLICY
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How much of your federal tax dollar goes to education?

By Jillian Luchner

So you give a dollar (well, probably more than one) to the federal government in taxes. How does it get spent? 

It might surprise you to know that only about 2 cents of that dollar goes to education

How does the government arrive at that figure? Many of the expenditures in the federal budget are mandatory, like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and servicing the national debt. The government does not need to make a budget for these items each year, but will spend as much as it needs to meet its obligations under current law. 

The remaining expenditures—including education funding—are known as discretionary spending, which means Congress, through its annual budget and appropriations process, must determine a top level of spending for the year and then let agencies and departments know how much they each will be able to spend. 

Combined, these two spending streams—mandatory and discretionary—make up all government spending. And when you give the government a dollar for this spending, it spends just 2 of your cents on education. Many Americans think this is not enough. If you're one of them, make your voice heard today.

In the 5 Cents Makes Sense Campaign, a group called the Coalition for Education Funding—of which the Afterschool Alliance is a member—is recommending that these 2 cents currently being spent on education increase to a commitment of 5 cents of every federally collected dollar. 

MAR
7
2017

POLICY
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House hearing highlights value of career and technical education

By Jillian Luchner

On February 28, House Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee Chair Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) and Ranking Member Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) hosted a hearing entitled "Providing More Students a Pathway to Success by Strengthening Career and Technical Education." The hearing highlighted both the demand for career pathways that meet modern needs and the residual barriers to entry into career and technical education (CTE) programs that reflect old patterns of thinking.

Chairman Rokita began and ended the hearing by expressing his optimism that the time is right for passage of updated legislation to reauthorize the outdated Perkins CTE law last authorized in 2006. He categorized an update to the law as a “common-sense bipartisan reform” that deserves priority.

Rep. Polis honed in on statistics about the future needs of the workforce, which will require a much higher proportion (65 percent) of employees with postsecondary credentials as soon as 2020. Polis highlighted dual and concurrent enrollment programs as a solution, citing that students in dual enrollment programs are 23 percent more likely to continue on to postsecondary education after high school. Programs that are fully funded, locally flexible, and labor market-driven to ensure effectiveness and relevancy could act as a “ladder to lift students to the middle class” and “reconnect disconnected youth” in all communities, Polis explained over the course of his statement.

The hearing's panel included Glenn Johnson, workforce development leader at BASF; Janet Goble, a CTE director from Utah; Mimi Lufkin, CEO of the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE); and Mike Rowe, CEO of the MikeRoweWORKS Foundation and former star of the TV show “Dirty Jobs.” Panelists discussed a range of ideas, including the importance of local partnerships, the skills gap, the importance of real connections to employment opportunities in local areas, the effects of baby boomer retirement, the reputation of skilled labor, the higher than average starting salaries of CTE-trained workers, the importance of data collection and reporting, and the need to encourage students into non-traditional fields—such as men in health care or women in construction.

FEB
27
2017

POLICY
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Senators celebrate the value of apprenticeship programs

By Jillian Luchner

At left, Sen. Tim Scott speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Photograph by Gage Skidmore. At right, Sen. Cory Booker speaks at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol. Photograph courtesy Sen. Booker's office.

Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) reintroduced the “Leveraging and Energizing America’s Apprenticeship Programs (LEAP) Act” to the 115th Congress on February 15. The act provides employers with tax credits of up to $1,500 for each eligible apprentice they hire under the program.

Both Scott and Booker have professed deep interests in engaging youth. At Restoring the American Dream, an event hosted by Opportunity Nation on the day of the bill’s release, Scott and Booker spoke to the need to connect youth with opportunities.

“Too often, especially with young people, we tend to look down to the lowest level of expectation,” Scott said.

“It’s not the wealth of our wealthiest that makes our nation great. It’s how we provide pathways for every single child," Booker said. "My father was born poor, segregated environment, single mom…(but the) people who came into his life gave him a little bit of love, a little bit of support, a little bit of a hand up.”

Representative Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-Wash.) also spoke at the event, saying she felt a responsibility for helping people to “realize where the opportunities are” and “plug in.”

These efforts show impressive results. The organization Year Up participated in a panel at the event to discuss its one-year post-high school program model that pairs six months of technical and professional skill building with a six-month internship. Research show 85 percent of Year Up participants find full-time employment, with an average starting wage of $18 an hour.

Connecting students to opportunities to practice professional skills and gain work experience is a practice familiar to afterschool programs across the country. Training and experience are valuable across age categories. The people, businesses, programs, governments, and systems that recognize the value of these youth and connect them to opportunities and skills continue to see great returns—economic, social, relational—over and over again.

FEB
23
2017

POLICY
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House committee holds hearing on juvenile justice reform

By Jillian Luchner

On February 15, the House of Representatives held a subcommittee hearing on “Providing Vulnerable Youth the Hope of a Brighter Future Through Juvenile Justice Reform.” Chaired by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), the hearing included testimony from four witnesses, Meg Williams of the Colorado Department of Public Safety; Chief Patrick J. Flannelly of the Lafayette Police Department in Indiana; the Honorable Denise Navaree Cubbon, Administrative Judge in Lucas County, Ohio; and Matt Reed, executive director of the YMCA in Louisville, Ky.

Witnesses discussed ways to reform the country’s juvenile justice system to promote safe communities and set at-risk youth on the pathway to success. The press release for the event tells the story of a young person’s changed trajectory as a result of preventative intervention:

Mr. Reed’s testimony discussed his work with at-risk youth for more than 20 years. He said effective and evidence-based solutions play an important role in keeping kids out of the juvenile justice system. Reed shared the story of 12-year-old Cassidy, who grew up in a troubled home where drug dealing and usage often occurred. In the summer of 2012, as a freshman in high school, Cassidy was arrested after her home was raided by law enforcement. “[Cassidy’s] mom had refused to give up any of the dealers, choosing instead to pin it on Cassidy,” Reed said. “She watched her daughter taken off in handcuffs.”

As the charges were resolved, Cassidy went into the YMCA’s shelter program and soon moved in with her grandparents. She began working with a case manager at the YMCA’s Safe Place—spending several months in counseling and at family team meetings. Cassidy also participated in community service at the YMCA and committed herself to extra tutoring. As a result of these efforts, her life began to improve. “Cassidy received her high school diploma in August of 2014,” Reed said, explaining the value of community-based programs. “She indeed went to college and is enrolled today at the University of Louisville.”

The House hearing is seen as a step toward the 115th Congress passing reauthorized and updated Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) legislation, which saw a near miss in the 114th Congress when a JJDPA bill—which included updates supporting the preventative and restorative roles afterschool and community-based programming like YMCAs can play in youth development—passed the House, but did not pass the Senate.

The Senate will be holding its own committee hearing on the JJDPA legislation, “Improving Outcomes for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System,” on Tuesday, February 28.