By Sarah Keller
Last week Sen. Chuck Schumer introduced a bipartisan bill, the Child Protection Improvements and Electronic Life and Safety Security Systems Act of 2013. The bill addresses the problem of a current lack of an all-encompassing criminal background database system. While all youth serving organizations can check the in-state criminal records of job applicants and volunteers, only one-third of states provide these organizations with access to the FBI database to conduct nationwide criminal background checks.
A now expired pilot program created by the PROTECT Act of 2004 gave selected youth-serving organization access to nationwide criminal records. Statistics from that program show the importance of having comprehensive background checks. In that program, 6 percent of applicants had a criminal record that should have prevented them from working with children. Additionally, 40 percent of those crimes were not committed in the same state the person applied for the job or volunteer opportunity, meaning that the record would be undetected without a nationwide criminal record search.
Sen. Schumer’s bill expands the PROTECT Act’s pilot program by providing all youth-serving organizations with access to the FBI’s database through the creation of a federal criminal history review entity. The youth serving organization will then be able to simultaneously check the in-state and national criminal history of a potential employee or volunteer. After a check is run, the youth serving organization will be notified if the applicant has an arrest or conviction for sexual offenses, violent offenses or crimes against children, among other crimes. However, due to privacy concerns, the organization will not be given information on the exact nature of the charges or convictions. The bill also mandates that the entire process take a few days at most, instead of the current wait time of up to six weeks, and cost a maximum of $25 as opposed to the current price of $24-$59 per person.
The Afterschool Alliance has worked with the American Camp Association and other partners in support of this bill for the past several years. The Afterschool Alliance has endorsed Sen. Schumer’s bill.
On Wednesday the bipartisan Workforce Investment Act (WIA) reauthorization bill passed through the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee by an 18-3 vote, and will now be considered by the full Senate. The House ofRepresentatives passed their version, the SKILLS Act (HR 803), earlier this year.
The original WIA legislation was first passed by Congress in 1998 and has been overdue for reauthorization since 2003. The reauthorization bill passed by the committee contains changes to the legislation that reflect the ever-changing global economy, input from business, education and labor groups, and more than a decade of experience with existing programs. The bipartisan reauthorization bill was co-sponsored by Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN).
From an afterschool and summer learning perspective, the bill expands opportunities for youth who are out of school, out of work and at risk by increasing the percentage of funding dedicated to assisting out-of-school youth and young adults to 75 percent. For youth, the bill:
The Republican Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill passed the House of Representatives this morning by a vote of 221 to 207, with 12 Republicans joining House Democrats in opposing the bill.
HR 5, the Student Success Act, does not reauthorize the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative, which could lead to more than 1.1 million students losing access to desperately needed afterschool, before-school and summer learning programs that keep students safe, inspire learning and provide a lifeline for our hard working families. While the bill does create the Local Competitive Grant Program that would fund “supplemental student support activities such as before, after, or summer school activities, tutoring, and expanded learning time;” it allows the same Grant Program to also support school day activities, such as academic subject-specific programs, adjunct teacher programs, extended learning time programs, dual enrollment programs and parent engagement. At a time when local and state funding is declining, it is likely that this grant would predominantly be used to fund activities during the school day.
The House Republican Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill is scheduled to make its way to the floor of the House of Representatives today. HR 5, the Student Success Act, debate on the House floor will start today and a final vote will most likely take place tomorrow. The White House has issued a veto threat on the bill and stated it “would represent a significant step backwards in the effort to help our Nation's children and their families prepare for their futures.”
HR 5 does not reauthorize the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative, which could lead to more than 1.1 million students losing access to desperately needed afterschool, before-school and summer learning programs that keep students safe, inspire learning and provide a lifeline for our hard working families. While the bill does create the Local Competitive Grant Program that would fund “supplemental student support activities such as before, after, or summer school activities, tutoring, and expanded learning time.” It also allows the same funds to support school day activities, such as academic subject specific programs, adjunct teacher programs, extended learning time programs, dual enrollment programs and parent engagement. At a time when local and state funding is declining, it is likely that this grant would predominantly be used to fund activities during the school day.
The Obama administration has for some time been supporting the expansion of learning time in school—which sounds useful but often isn’t—by diverting money intended for afterschool programs, many of which are high quality and offer different venues for kids to learn. Our Executive Director Jodi Grant explains what's at stake.
By Sarah Keller
The Fiscal Year 2014 spending bill for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education was adopted by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Tuesday and the full Appropriations Committee on Thursday. The major funding stream for afterschool, before-school and summer learning programs, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative, received a slight increase under the bill for a proposed total of $1.2 billion for FY2014, up from $1.091 billion for the current fiscal year (post sequester). Similar to last year, authorizing language was included in the bill that would change federal afterschool policy and divert 21st CCLC dollars from afterschool and summer learning programs to fund a longer school day, week or year.
The 21st 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 when their parents are at work after school, before-school and during summer. 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.
This Thursday a congressional briefing held by the Senate Afterschool Caucus will feature a panel of education experts leading strong school-community partnerships in Iowa, West Virginia and Minnesota. Panelists will discuss how afterschool programs in rural communities foster student and family engagement and community development. The briefing, which will highlight how the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative supports quality afterschool and summer learning programs in rural communities, will be held:
Thurs., July 11, at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center SVC 212-10 at 10:30 a.m.
Afterschool programs in rural communities help children in places where prospects and resources can be limited. In many rural areas, afterschool programs are the only source of supplemental enrichment in literacy, nutrition education, technology and preparation for college. Afterschool programs offer effective and affordable ways to overcome obstacles confronting rural communities and help students realize their full potential.