Last Thursday the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the fiscal year 2013 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Bill (LHHS), which funded the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative at $1.15 billion, the same level as last year. However, the bill includes language that would change federal afterschool policy and divert those 21st CCLC dollars from afterschool and summer learning programs. If this bill becomes law, communities will lose their afterschool programs and many more children will be unsupervised during the hours while their parents are at work.
CCLC program serves more than one million children from low-income families that attend high-need schools by providing safe and enriching environments during the hours after school when their parents are at work as well as before school and during summers. 21st
CCLC programs have been praised by law enforcement for keeping young people safe at a time of day when they are otherwise unsupervised. Recent research
has also shown the effectiveness of 21st
CCLC programs to improve student attendance at school and increase academic success.
The language included in the Senate bill would make these funds available to school districts to lengthen the school day, week, or year; a potentially expensive policy change that could result in fewer communities having access to 21st
CCLC afterschool and summer programs, and more unsupervised children in the hours after school. The legislative language
CCLC funding to be used for “expanded learning time programs that significantly increase the number of hours in regular school schedule and comprehensively redesign the school schedule for all students in school.” The language does require instruction to cover core and other subjects as well as enrichment activities; and requires strong partnerships between schools and community partners. This change would divert critically needed funds away from quality afterschool programs that offer three or four hours of programming to add just an hour or so to the school day. Afterschool programming would still be needed after the longer school day ends, however without additional funding it is unlikely that schools and communities would be able to serve those children. While the report language included with the bill is favorable, it does not have the same binding authority as the legislative language.
The appropriations process is far from over, and there is still time to take action to raise these concerns with your elected officials–take action now