On Jan. 23, the second session of the 112th Congress will begin. It is unclear to most Washington observers what the upcoming year will look like, but we do know a few things:
- It is an election year. Elections this November will determine all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, as well as 33 seats in the U.S. Senate. A Presidential election is also in the cards this year, making increased partisanship more likely. Look for an updated election toolkit here on our website this month for ideas on how to raise the importance of afterschool programs to campaigns in your state and district.
- ESEA remains unfinished business. Among the pending legislation for this year is reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Historically, it is challenging for Congress to pass large legislation during election years. However, the House Education and the Workforce Committee could very well mark up an ESEA bill early this year. In addition to ESEA, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and Workforce Investment Act (WIA) are all theoretically up for reauthorization. The likelihood of any of these bills, including ESEA, passing both chambers of Congress and being signed into law by the President remains questionable.
- The budget process will continue to be a process. While the ink is barely dry on the Continuing Resolution that funds most government agencies through Sept. 30, 2012, the FY2013 budget process will begin anew in February with the President’s proposed budget. As a result of last summer’s Budget Control Act, sequestration (i.e. spending cuts), will factor into the FY2013 budget picture.
- Engaged learning is key. The new year has already brought a new round of discussion and debate in Washington policy circles over federal funding for a longer school day at the expense of afterschool. A lively debate on the Answer Sheet blog on the Washington Post’s website has generated dozens of comments about the necessity of continuing federal 21st CCLC funding for afterschool, before-school and summer learning programs. A majority of the comments responding to the point and counter point blog posts by the Afterschool Alliance’s Jodi Grant and the National Center for Time and Learning’s Jennifer Davis emphasize the need for continued federal support for afterschool programs to ensure engaged learning opportunities remain for young people.
Beyond a doubt, 2012 will be another year for reaching out to elected officials at the local, state and national levels to emphasize the impact that quality afterschool programs have on young people: engaging and inspiring them and complementing the learning they receive in school. Budget cuts at all levels have taken a toll on both the availability of programs as well as on the children and families that rely on these programs. Policy makers need to hear and see the value of before-school, afterschool and summer learning programs, and need to be reminded that these programs are not a luxury but rather are essential to the success of young people in school, but also in life. Contact Congress now