During the August district work period set to begin next week committee members and their staff will write the CR bill, with many details including Subcommittee allocations yet to be determined. The bill is not expected to include controversial policy riders. The CR should be passed by the House and Senate in September and sent to President Obama to be signed into law before the current fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, 2012. While there remain many questions about the FY2013 spending deal, such as the impact of sequestration, it appears at this point that key federal supports for afterschool and summer learning programs, like the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative, the Child Care Development Block Grant and the AmeriCorps program, will all remain federally funded into next fiscal year.
With only five months remaining until sequestration (the automatic, across-the-board cuts to defense and non-defense discretionary spending authorized by the Budget Control Act of 2011), Congress and the Administration are beginning to recognize the potentially devastating impact of the process on families and children. Under the Budget Control Act (BCA) passed last summer, most federal programs face an across-the-board cut on Jan. 2, 2013, if Congress does not enact a plan to reduce the national debt by $1.2 trillion. Here is the latest sequestration news impacting afterschool and summer learning opportunities for young people:
- The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies held a hearing on July 25 to determine the impact of sequestration on non-defense jobs and services. Among the witnesses testifying before the subcommittee were Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Dr. Tammy Mann, president and CEO of The Campagna Center in Alexandria, VA, a provider of both afterschool and Head Start programs for children. During the question and answer period, Sen. Durbin (D-IL) emphasized the valuable role that afterschool programs play in keeping young people safe and engaged during the hours after the regular school day.
- In conjunction with the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Harkin (D-IA) released “Under Threat,” a comprehensive report detailing the loss of services for young people if sequestration takes place. Among the findings: 145,180 fewer students would be able to access afterschool and summer learning opportunities currently provided through the 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) initiative; and 80,000 fewer children would be served by the Child Care Development Block Grant.
Last week six more states and the District of Columbia were granted waivers from certain provisions of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, bringing the total to 32 states—plus D.C.—that have been granted this flexibility. Five more state applications are under review by the Department of Education, and the remaining states have until September 6 to submit an application. Of the six states granted waivers last week, Arizona, Michigan, South Carolina, and D.C. did not check the box for the optional 11th waiver that allows 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) funds to be used to lengthen the school day, week or year. Kansas, Mississippi and Oregon, however, chose to opt-in to the 11th waiver. In all, 20 out of 32 states receiving waivers have checked the 21st CCLC box; 12 states along with D.C. have not.
Given the potentially high cost of adding time to the school day, the optional 21st CCLC waiver provision could result in fewer communities having access to quality out-of-school programs, enlarging the already significant unmet demand for quality afterschool, before-school and summer learning programs across the country. The department initiated the waiver process last fall to give states flexibility from some of the mandates of the 10-year-old NCLB law in exchange for states implementing standards and accountability reforms.
a state must retain existing 21st CCLC requirements prioritizing school-community partnerships; and the “programming provided through a longer school day, week, or year, must not be ‘more of the same’ but instead should involve careful planning by the eligible entity to ensure that the programs or activities will be used to improve student achievement and ensure a well-rounded education that prepares students for college and careers.”
- $2.3 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is a $25 million increase from last year’s level.
- $712 million for the Community Services Block Grant (HHS), which is level funded from last year and $332 million above the president’s budget request.
- $15 billion for the Title I Program at the Department of Education for basic grants to local school districts that help all children become proficient in reading and math. This is level funded at last year’s level.
- $60 million for Promise Neighborhoods, level funded from last year.
- $271 million for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) to support the National Senior Volunteer Programs. This represents a cut of about $800 million to CNCS resulting in the elimination of the AmeriCorps and VISTA programs.
This post was written by our summer intern Teresa Kroeger. She is a senior at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Last Thursday the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing titled “Beyond Seclusion and Restraint: Creating Positive Learning Environments for All Students.” The hearing discussed the harmful practices of seclusion and restraint used in schools. The panel consisted of the director of the Center for Leadership in Disability, representatives from public and private schools, and a parent who witnessed first-hand the damaging effects of seclusion and restraint on her son.
Seclusion and restraint in schools have had harmful effects on countless children. These tactics are disproportionately used on racial minorities and students with disabilities. In all cases of seclusion, the children are removed from an educational environment and lose the opportunity to learn. They are separated from their peers, who are valuable tools in teaching proper communication and behavior. From 2010 to 2011 alone, there were around 39,000 issues of chemical or physical restraint in United States’ schools. Restraint and seclusion have emotionally damaging effects that ultimately perpetuate the issue of emotional outbursts. Sadly, uses of these methods have even lead to the unnecessary deaths of several children involved.
The panel echoed a resounding agreement on the solution: to teach communication to students and preventative tactics to teachers. Seclusion and restraint should only be used in classrooms in emergency situations. Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland and the Centennial School in Pennsylvania have followed this model for years. Their positive results are undeniably significant. The schools’ quantitative and qualitative data reveal the powerful impact of positive learning environments for all students.
By Jodi Grant
This post was co-written by our Excutive Director Jodi Grant and STEM Policy Director Anita Krishnamurthi.
Last month we were delighted to be invited to attend a breakfast at the Finnish Embassy featuring Dr. Pali Sahlberg, the director of the Center for International Mobility and Cooperation in Helsinki; Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers; and Roberto Rodriguez, special assistant to the president on education. Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss moderated the panel.
Finland has been receiving a flurry of attention from education stakeholders and reformers for consistently standing out as one of the strongest school systems in the world. We were eager to hear what the Finns thought was the key to their success.
Dr. Sahlberg began by saying that Finland never set out to be the best, they just wanted to improve and do better by their children. This benchmark comes from a philosophically different place than the international competition that drives most of our debate on this issue. He proceeded to describe the other social issues Finland has worked on to ensure children and youth have a fair shot: their child poverty rate is 4 percent, compared to 22 percent in the United States; they are ranked first in child health and well-being while the United States is ranked 29th; and, their income inequality is also much lower. He also stressed that equity played a major role in their re-think—they determined that the notion of private schools where people can opt out of the system and private funding of education is not compatible with an equitable system. Consequently, there are no privately funded schools in Finland. Finland also boasts an incredibly selective teacher recruitment and training process. Only 5 percent of applicants are selected for a master’s program in education, which is required to become a teacher.
As the U.S. debates how long our school days should be, Finland offers a sobering example of why that cannot be the only solution. Children in Finland do not start school until they are 7 because the Finns believe that learning to play is extremely important—it teaches children how to get along with each other, to pay attention and focus, and to be imaginative—all qualities they think are essential to child and youth development. The country has one of the shortest school days around, teachers give minimal homework and testing is rare. They strongly believe that you test a small sample of schools to see how well a model is working and you ask the teachers to assess how the students are doing. One of the points Dr. Sahlberg made that really resonated was “Accountability is what is left when responsibility is taken away.”
The Obama administration granted seven additional states flexibility from key provisions of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) on Friday, June 29 and July 5. These announcements bring the number of states with approved waivers to 26, with 11 additional states still under review.
This post was written by our summer intern Anna Olkovsky. She is a junior at Smith College.
Until the 1990s, funding for afterschool programming was provided largely by community organizations, such as the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, rather than by the federal government. However, in the mid-1990s, new research began to demonstrate the benefits of afterschool programs, and combined with an increase in the number of parents working outside of the home, the issue of afterschool care was brought to policy makers’ attention. In 1994, Sen. James Jeffords (I-Vt.) and Rep. Steve Gunderson (R-Wis.), with support from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Ca.) and others, introduced The 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) Act. As described by Jeffords, 21st CCLC would be “centers of activity” in communities, offering “activities and services provided by community members for the benefit of school children...as well as for the benefit of the adult members of the community.” The bill was ultimately folded into The Improving America’s Schools Act, the 1994 reauthorization of the 1965 The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and $750,000 was budgeted for 21st CCLC in FY1995. 21st CCLC programming would “plan, implement, or expand projects that benefit the educational, health, social service, cultural, and recreational needs of a rural or inner-city community,” and each center had to provide at least four from a list of 13 community resources, including senior citizen programming, extended library hours, parenting skills classes, nutrition and health programming, and technology education. Groups that wanted to gain funding for a 21st CCLC applied directly to the Department of Education.
Widespread support for afterschool programs from both public and private sources grew over the next few years. In 1998, the Department of Education and the Justice Department released a report entitled “Safe and Smart: Making the After-School Hours Work for Kids,” which held up afterschool programming as “the best deterrent against juvenile crime and victimization,” and focused on the many benefits that “children, their families, schools, and the whole community” reap as a result of afterschool care, including “increased safety, reduced risk-taking, and improved learning.”