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JAN
16
2015

POLICY
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21st CCLC initiative eliminated in Sen. Alexander's ESEA reauthorization discussion draft bill

By Erik Peterson

As we previewed earlier this week, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization process officially kicked off late on Tuesday night with the release of Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander’s (R-TN) staff discussion draft reauthorization bill.  The proposed “Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015” would replace the 2001 No Child Left Behind law and seeks to increases flexibility for states under a reduced federal footprint.  The proposed bill offers two approaches to annual testing requirements, makes teacher evaluation through test scores optional and eliminates a range of existing programs including the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative that currently provides afterschool and summer learning programs to more than 1.6 million students.

Separately on Wednesday, Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan responded to the Chairman’s draft by expressing serious concern with a number of provisions.  The tentative process moving forward includes a number of discussion sessions giving Senate HELP Committee members’ staff an opportunity to fully understand the 400-page bill, followed by negotiations to determine the legislation that will be marked up in the Senate HELP Committee likely during the middle of next month.  An ESEA bill could be debated on the Senate floor as early as this spring or summer.

Of utmost concern to parents, student, providers and friends of afterschool and summer learning programs is the proposed elimination of 21st CCLC, presently the only federal program dedicated to proving students in grades pre-K through 12 with quality enrichment, academic programming and a wide range of student support during the hours when school is out, including afterschool, weekends, holidays and over the summer.

Senator Alexander’s proposed draft ESEA bill repurposes existing 21st CCLC funding to create a suggested Safe and Healthy Student Block Grant within Title IV of the law that would allow local education agencies (LEAs) to fund a wide variety of student supports during the school day, or fund afterschool, before school, or summer learning programs when school is out, all with the goal of improving students' safety, health, well-being and academic achievement.  The proposed draft also allows LEAs to fund afterschool, summer learning, and additional expanded learning programs for students through a Title II block grant aimed at Improving Student Academic Achievement.  

The Afterschool Alliance is concerned with Senator Alexander’s proposed draft ESEA bill and instead recommends reauthorization of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers within the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  Without a separate funding stream specifically targeting learning outside the school day, essential learning opportunities that are helping more than 1.5 million young people better prepare for college, careers and life will disappear.

Friends of afterschool and summer learning programs are encouraged to reach out to Senators to explain the value and importance of maintaining separate federal funding for programs that support young people when school is out.  A fact sheet and action alert can be accessed to help send the message to Congress that afterschool is not an extra, but instead essential to the success of children in school and in life.  A list of current members of the Senate HELP Committee and House Education and the Workforce Committee is available as well.

The following summarizes key elements of both the Improving Student Academic Achievement (Title II) and Safe and Healthy Students (Title IV) block grants within Senator Alexander’s proposed draft ESEA bill:

Improving Student Academic Achievement Block Grant (Title II)

  • Goal of Title II: to improve student academic achievement by—(1) increasing the capacity of local educational agencies, schools, teachers, principals, and other school leaders to provide a well-rounded and complete education for all students; (2) improving the quality and effectiveness of teachers, principals, and other school leaders; (3) increasing the number of teachers, principals, and other school leaders who are effective in improving student academic achievement in schools; and (4) ensuring that low-income and minority students are served by effective teachers, principals, and other school leaders and have access to a high-quality instructional program.
  • This is a block grant that flows by formula from the federal Department of Education to State Education Agencies, and then by formula to LEAs
  • LEA grant applications are based largely on the results of a needs assessment in consultation with school personnel, parents, community-based organizations and other stakeholders to determine the schools with the greatest staffing needs.
  • Funding is targeted to low-income students and schools that serve low-income students.
  • The Block Grant would provide funds to LEAs but there is a role for non-profit community based organizations to provide input and be partners in implementing programs.
  • Among the allowable uses for funds: “providing programs that support extended learning opportunities, including before and after school programs, summer school programs, and programs that extend the school day, school week, or school year calendar.”
  • Other allowable uses include liability insurance for teachers; teacher preparation; teacher residency; international baccalaureate or AP programs; increased access to improved libraries; English Language Learner programming; professional development for teachers and/or principals; instructional technology; evaluation systems for teachers; recruiting trained and qualifying teachers; well-rounded student programming, and more.
  • The proposed bill authorizes about $3 billion for Title II.

Safe and Healthy Students (Title IV)

  • Goal of this title: to improve students' safety, health, well-being and academic achievement during and after the school day.
  • This is a block grant that flows by formula from the federal Department of Education to State Education Agencies, and then by formula to LEAs
  • LEA grant applications are based largely on the results of a needs assessment in consultation with school personnel, parents, community-based organizations, local governments and other stakeholders to determine the level of drug use, violent behavior, and the mental and physical health of students.
  • Funding is targeted to low-income students and schools that serve low-income students.
  • The Block Grant would provide funds to LEAs but there is a role for non-profit community based organizations to provide input and be partners in implementing programs.
  • Title IV allowable uses include funding for “before and after school programs and activities, including during summer recess periods.”
  • Other allowable uses include activities to be provided during the school day including drug and violence prevention programs; school based mental health services; emergency intervention after traumatic events; staff training on suicide prevention; mentoring programs; school counselling; healthy active lifestyle/wellness; positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS).
  • The proposed bill authorizes $1.6 billion for this Title IV block grant.

Two additional items of note from the proposed bill:

  • The draft legislation allows 100 percent transferability between Title II and Title IV block grants: LEA can use all of Title II and Title IV allocations for one or the other or a combination of both.
  • The draft bill removes afterschool as an allowable use from the McKinney Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act and replaces with ‘local education programs.’