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Snacks by Jillian Luchner
FEB
9
2017

POLICY
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Senators King and Burr introduce PACE Child Care Act

By Jillian Luchner

The Promoting Affordable Childcare for Everyone (PACE) Act of 2017 has been introduced in the 115th Congress by Senate co-sponsors Angus King (I-Maine) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.). In a statement about the bill, the senators expressed concern that low-income families are now spending more than 30 percent of their incomes on child care costs. 

The legislation (as explained in a summary of the act) would make important changes to the current Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) aimed at broadening supports for families with childcare needs. The bill includes provisions for:

  • Refundability so that low-income families would be able to benefit even if their tax contribution would be too low to allow the benefit of a credit. The Tax Policy Center has a good explanation of the difference between a deduction, credit, and refund.
  • Phased credit levels that begin as high as 50 percent and range down to 35 percent for higher income-families.
  • Inflationary adjustments that consider the increasing costs of childcare.

The legislation would also make changes to Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) by:

  • Increasing contributions from $5,000 to $7,500 annually that can be set aside pre-tax.
  • Tying the new $7,500 cap to inflation to account for increasing costs.

The bill would help families with school-age children cover the cost of afterschool and summer learning programs for children up to the age of 13.

The bipartisan bill’s introduction in the Senate comes on the heels of President Trump’s child care proposal, unveiled last fall during the presidential campaign, and developed in partnership with his daughter Ivanka. In mid-January, before taking office, Trump’s transition staff met with the Ways and Means committee to discuss the proposal which, in combination with new maternity leave provisions, would have a $300 billion price tag according to CNN reports.

Trump’s proposal would alter the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit so that any couple earning up to $500,000 (or individual earning up to $250,000) would be able to deduct up to the average cost of child care in their state. Additionally, low-income families that benefit from the Earned Income Tax Credit would be eligible for rebates of up to $1,200. The New York Times reports that families would choose between the new rebate for low-income families or the old CDCTC, so that additional benefits to these low-income families would be slight.  

Trump’s modifications to Dependent Care Savings Accounts, according to a CNBC article, would match at 50 percent a low income family’s saving up to $1000 for these tax-deductible accounts. The accounts could be saved and withdrawn tax free so long as they were spent on eligible expenditures such as “traditional child care, afterschool programs, and school tuition.” Tax analysts reported that this provision would also have greater effects for higher income tax-payers.

The White House “Issues” webpage does not currently list child care as a policy issue.  

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learn more about: Congress Federal Policy Legislation POTUS
FEB
8
2017

POLICY
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Senate confirms Trump nominee Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education

By Jillian Luchner

On February 7, the Senate voted to confirm Elisabeth (Betsy) DeVos as the new U.S. Secretary of Education (learn more about Secretary DeVos). Trump’s controversial nominee for the cabinet position received 50 votes in favor of her confirmation and 50 against. The vote that ran along party lines, with the exception of Sens. Lisa Murkoswki (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), who broke from their party to vote “no.” The tie was broken in favor of DeVos by Vice President Mike Pence, marking the first time a cabinet nominee has been confirmed as a result of the vice president’s vote.

The confirmation caps off a contentious process that began soon after Trump announced his nominee. DeVos provided oral testimony in a Senate hearing on January 17. She then submitted responses to a reported 1,400 additional written questions submitted by members of the Senate.

Secretary DeVos has applauded the benefits of afterschool and STEM in her written responses, some of which were posted on The Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog. A question from Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) referred to his work on reauthorizing the 21st Century Community Learning Center initiative in the Every Student Succeeds Act and asked DeVos how she planned to “support rich high quality learning experiences for students.” DeVos responded:

After-school programs are critical to the safety and continued learning for many students. There are many programs offered by wonderful local community groups and schools that offer valuable opportunities for learning. As you noted, the Every Student Succeeds Act included the reauthorization of the 21 Century Community Learning Centers, a program that helps to provide after-school services to many children. If confirmed, I will implement the law as intended and funded by Congress, including the 21 Century Community Learning Centers program.

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learn more about: Congress Department of Education
JAN
26
2017

POLICY
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Panel: When rethinking school governance, afterschool is a piece of the local puzzle

By Jillian Luchner

On January 19th, the National School Boards Association and the National School Boards Action Center hosted the Public Education Agenda for America's Success forum. Representatives from both conservative and liberal policy and research institutes came together in Washington, DC to discuss what to expect under a new administration and Congress.

The 2016 presidential campaign did not focus much on education issues, aside from a few conversations around child care and school choice. However, Gerard Robinson of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) mentioned that while education has not been a direct focus of President Trump’s attention, many of his priority issues—including safety, the economy and the military—are, in truth, education issues.

Based on what we know so far about the Trump Administration's education agenda and how it relates to out-of-school time, a couple of key themes emerged.

Federal government expected to pass the baton to the states

Many on the panel assumed the Trump Administration will look to return as much decision-making on data, performance, and implementation as possible to states, which resonates with the theme of the Every Student Succeeds Act passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in 2015.

All panelists expected a return to local control—but as AEI's Andy Smarick hypothesized, the very concept of local control may be changing. In the past, local control meant the ultimate decision makers on education issues should be local school boards and districts rather than the state or federal government, but Smarick now believes local control is reaching down to the level of the parent and family.

However, other panelists pointed out that with federal and state money flowing to districts and students, accountability in education will always have to be twofold: at the school and parent level with regard to student achievement, but also at the federal, state, and local level when considering how public tax dollars are being spent in the public interest.

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.

DEC
6
2016

POLICY
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5 opportunities for afterschool in new Department of Education regulations for ESSA

By Jillian Luchner

President Obama signing the Every Student Succeeds Act into law.

On November 29th, the Department of Education issued final regulations on accountability, school support, data reporting, and consolidated state plan provisions under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The regulations strengthen the voices of afterschool advocates who recognize the importance of being included in state plans by reinforcing the importance of stakeholder involvement, awareness of equitable resources, and state and local flexibility in decision making.

The new regulations responded to more than 20,000 comments on the draft regulations (including a submission by the Afterschool Alliance), in some cases clarifying the law, in other cases explaining the decision to not take action, and occasionally suggesting that more information would come in the form of non-regulatory guidance. We’ve identified the following five areas in the regulations where afterschool may play a major role.

1. Accountability

What the law says: The regulations emphasize “working closely with stakeholders to choose evidence based interventions that are tailored to local needs.” The new law also requires states to choose one or more indicators of school quality or student success (like student engagement or chronic absenteeism, for example), which will factor into the overall school score that is reported to parents under the accountability system. The regulations require that these indicators, also known as 5th indicators, have a research base tying them to student learning and achievement, such as improved GPAs, credit accumulation, graduation rates, college enrollment or career success.

Where afterschool fits in: Afterschool programs are a proven way to support students in academics, engagement and behavior. Afterschool advocates should ensure that state and local superintendents and school boards are aware of the research on afterschool’s role in boosting academic achievement and student success. The afterschool field is a well-positioned partner in supporting students and the school system under this section of the law.

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learn more about: Department of Education ESEA
SEP
14
2016

POLICY
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House passes an updated career and technical education bill

By Jillian Luchner

photo by Rabi Samuel

The bipartisan Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, the proposed House update to the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act of 2006, was placed on the House of Representatives suspension calendar yesterday and passed overwhelmingly with 405 affirmative votes of support. This is good news for the education and afterschool community, as the proposed law would extend opportunities for schools and communities to collaborate in engaging students in career pathways to well-paid, in demand careers.

The Afterschool Alliance submitted a letter of support for the bill to the House Education and Workforce (HEW) committee this week. The bill, as outlined in an earlier blog, includes many positive advances: explicitly including community based organizations as eligible, extending eligible programming to begin in the 5th grade, drawing attention to the need for workplace/employability skills, and focusing on underrepresented groups within career categories, among other well-needed updates.

The Senate has now scheduled its mark-up of the Perkins legislation for next Wednesday, September 21. Whispers around Capitol Hill suggest that the Senate does not have any major disagreements on updating the legislation, but we must wait and see what the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee releases.

The Afterschool Alliance is glad that the model of effective, bipartisan work done in the House and continued awareness of the value of updated legislation has motivated the Senate into action. Feel free as always to make your own voices heard! We will aim to keep you updated as the legislative session continues.

For more general information on CTE and Career Pathways, visit our Career Pathways webpage.

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learn more about: Congress Federal Policy Legislation
SEP
1
2016

POLICY
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Evidence-based practices in education

By Jillian Luchner

Photo by Andrei Firtich

The reauthorized national education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) puts an increased emphasis on states and school districts using evidence-based practices in many areas. Under ESSA's Title I, schools designated by their state as “in need of improvement” must create a school improvement plan with at least one activity or program that has a related study showing it meets one of the identified tiers of evidence: strong, moderate or promising (described below).

In addition to this requirement, seven different competitive grants in ESSA will give priority to applicants who meet the top three evidence-based tiers. Although 21st Century Community Learning Centers are formula funded and do not require stringent adherence to evidence based practices, eligible entities are still expected to use best practices to improve student outcomes. Fortunately, there is a substantial and growing evidence base on the positive effects afterschool has on youth development outcomes.

This March, president Obama also signed the Evidence-Based Policy Making Commission Act of 2016. The commission established by the act has designated appointees and is beginning its work. The government’s focus on evidence seems here to stay.

Below is an overview of the evidence tiers specific to ESSA, concluding with resources to find evidence-based programs and develop new studies to add to the field of research.

Here are the four tiers of evidence-based practices in ESSA

  • STRONG. Strong studies show positive and meaningful (“statically significant”) results with randomized control trials (RCT). RCTs are viewed as the gold standard of evaluation because they are the best way to determine the effectiveness of a program or policy. RCTs take a large group of people and randomly assign them to the intervention being evaluated (the “treatment” group, in this case, is an afterschool program) or assign them to have no intervention (also known as the “control group”). However, the level of resources (time, money, expertise, etc.) necessary for RCT studies makes them incredibly difficult to implement and limits their availability. This is why it’s important that the law also includes the following tiers of evidence.
  • MODERATE. A moderate study will demonstrate a meaningful positive result on student outcomes based on a quasi-experimental study—a study that, like RCTs, has a “control” group and a “treatment” group, but unlike RCTs, it does not include the random assignment to a group.
  • PROMISING. A promising study—or correlational study—is one that shows a relationship between an activity or program and student improvements, but it does not prove that the specific activity or program under study was the cause of the change. For example, a correlational study may find that there is a relationship between gains in students’ communication skills and their participation in an afterschool program, but it would not be able to say for certain that participating in the afterschool program caused students to improve their communication skills.
  • UNDER EVALUATION. In this final, fourth tier of evidence, the law recognizes that the evidence base is itself a work in progress. The “under evaluation” designation exists for activities and programs that, while yet untested, are rationally derived from research and will be tracked to see what effects they have.
JUN
30
2016

POLICY
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New House bill gives career and technical education a modern upgrade

By Jillian Luchner

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce has released the “Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act”, a bipartisan bill updating Perkins career and technical education (CTE) legislation, which was last authorized in 2006. The proposed update includes many positive changes that recognize and support the work afterschool and summer providers are doing to help students enter the workforce prepared and ready for well-paid, in-demand careers.

Main tenets of the bipartisan bill

The 2016 legislation focuses on providing students with opportunities to pursue recognized postsecondary credentials that are aligned with the employment needs of the surrounding economy, especially in high-skill, high-wage careers.

The bill is friendly to afterschool in many areas. The bill recognizes the important role that afterschool plays in planning CTE offerings and the benefits of including community-based partners as active participants in that planning. The bill language includes community based organizations explicitly as eligible entities (capable of receiving funding). Afterschool is at the table!

The bill also allows career exploration and other activities to be allowable starting as early as the 5th grade (the previous limit was 7th grade). The bill supports STEM learning for underrepresented students, and career pathways for non-traditional careers, such as girls in computer science. The bill draws out the role of competency based education (digital badges, for example) in local CTE programs. The bill continues to mention the importance of employability skills, many of which overlap with social and emotional learning. And the bill also establishes an “Innovation Grant Program,” which reserves 25 percent of an initial $7.5 million allocation for specific programs, including partnerships with non-profits.

The bill is still heavily focused on a tripod of secondary education, post-secondary institutions, and businesses as the main players, however. This focus means that entities that do not fall into these three categories must ask to get a seat at the planning table. These entities include community-based programs, 21st Century Community Learning Centers (which will include workforce development as an allowable use when the Every Student Succeeds Act goes into effect next year), and other afterschool and summer providers working on employability skills and career pathways. As these entities are eligible for funding, this ask should not be too difficult. Additionally, groups that serve out of school or at-risk youth often are included, so the avenues for becoming involved in the planning process are many.

While the House has completed its proposal for revising the CTE law, the Senate has yet to unveil its plan, and the road to enactment isn’t entirely clear, given that legislators are about to leave Washington, D.C. until September. As a result of this timetable, there is still time for feedback and modification. Feel free to let us know your thoughts on the House bill. Talking with your state CTE state director is another way to learn more about the current law and develop relationships around the work you are doing to prepare students for excellent, in-demand careers.

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learn more about: Academic Enrichment Youth Development