On Tuesday, Pres. Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union (SOTU) address. As anticipated, the speech focused largely on policies to address income disparity in the United States, with special attention to education, workforce development and opportunities to learn. Featured prominently were a number of the White House’s existing education policy issues including the early childhood education initiative, the need to make college more accessible and affordable and support for more and better workforce and job training programs to put more Americans to work in better jobs.
Education was at the forefront in the president’s speech: he led with, “Today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a student who needed it, and did her part to lift America’s graduation rate to its highest level in more than three decades.” Among his examples of work done to increase learning opportunities for young people was the recent College Opportunity Summit, where 150 universities, businesses and nonprofits made concrete commitments to reduce inequality in access to higher education.
In his speech, the president laid out multiple education priorities saying, “Of course, it’s not enough to train today’s workforce. We also have to prepare tomorrow’s workforce, by guaranteeing every child access to a world-class education.” He hailed the success of the Race to the Top initiative, saying the program “has helped states raise expectations and performance...Teachers and principals in schools from Tennessee to Washington, D.C., are making big strides in preparing students with skills for the new economy—problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering and math.”
Afterschool leader praises 2014 budget, lauds Congress for 'prioritizing children and working families'
By Jodi Grant
Statement of Jodi Grant, Executive Director, Afterschool Alliance
“The omnibus appropriations bill that Congress passed this week is a welcome step in the right direction toward prioritizing children and working families, as the country makes hard spending choices.
In restoring nearly $60 million in sequester cuts to the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative, Congress signaled that keeping kids safe, inspiring them to learn, and helping working families are priorities. That is very good news, as is the funding level of $1.149 billion, now in place for the remainder of FY2014. The 21st CCLC is the nation’s chief federal funding stream for afterschool and summer learning programs, providing badly needed programs to 1.1 million students, many of whom would otherwise be unsupervised and at-risk when schools are closed.
This appropriations bill is also a step forward in terms what it does not contain—language that would allow 21st CCLC funds to be diverted for purposes other than providing the afterschool, before-school and summer programs children so urgently need.
By Jodi Grant
Statement of Jodi Grant, Executive Director, Afterschool Alliance. Read full press release here.
Gov. Cuomo’s announcement this afternoon is welcome news for afterschool programs across New York, and the children, working families and schools that rely on them. Afterschool programs keep kids safe, inspire them to learn, and help working families by relieving parents of worries about whether their children are safe, supervised, and engaged in enriching, educational activities after the school day ends. But in recent years, in New York and across the country, these programs have suffered due to budget cuts and reductions in private contributions.
The need for afterschool programs remains huge. According to the Afterschool Alliance’s America After 3 PM study, 779,000 students in New York are on their own after school. The parents of 1.1 million New York kids say their children would participate in an afterschool program if one were available. Too often, it hasn’t been – but Gov. Cuomo aims to change that with the initiative he announced today.
Like the vast majority of parents, educators and the public, Gov. Cuomo made clear that he recognizes that afterschool programs are essential to giving our children the start they deserve. Combined with his new pre-K initiative, he has introduced a powerful package of supports for children and families. We commend his priorities, which will benefit New York families immeasurably.
With only a few days before the Continuing Resolution funding the federal government expires on Wednesday, House and Senate appropriators unveiled the Fiscal Year 2014 (FY2014) Omnibus Appropriations bill last night. For the more than 8 million young people and their families that rely on afterschool and summer learning programs, the proposed Omnibus represents a step in the right direction. Most importantly, the majority of the FY2013 sequester cut to the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative is restored, and no language was included allowing the diversion of afterschool funds to other purposes. In addition, there are slight increases in other key funding streams that support afterschool programs.
Congress plans to pass an additional three day Continuing Resolution to allow time to consider and pass the FY2014 Omnibus bill. The Omnibus is a compromise between House and Senate appropriations committees and was made possible as a result of the budget deal struck between House and Senate Budget Committee Chairs last month, funding the government at $1 trillion through the end of September. Both the House and Senate must pass the Omnibus bill and the president must sign it before it becomes law.
Alberto Cruz is the Senior Youth and Family Director for the West Side YMCA in New York City and an Afterschool Ambassador emeritus.
Through the generous support of the Robert Bowne Foundation and the Afterschool Alliance, teens from the West Side Y’s Teens Take the City (TTC) program headed off to Washington, D.C., last month to meet with our elected officials to speak on behalf of YMCA of Greater New York afterschool and youth programs.
West Side Y teens set out to take over D.C. and were led by former Afterschool Ambassador and current West Side Senior Youth and Family Director Alberto Cruz and Teen Program Director Johann Dubouzet. While learning about the political landscape in Washington, teens had the opportunity to meet with legislative aides from Reps. Rangel, Serrano and Engel and with aides in Sens. Schumer and Gillibrand to speak about the importance of supporting teen programs and in particular the Teens Take the City program. TTC gives teens the opportunity to learn and participate through mock proposal writing, research and presentations about city government.
This week, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA)reached a two year budget deal. The compromise deal restores $63 billion of the harmful sequester cuts that have resulted in decreased federal support for a variety of education opportunities for young people, including support of afterschool and summer learning programs.
The budget deal, reached after weeks of negotiations following the government shutdown in October, restores almost two-thirds of the scheduled non-defense discretionary cuts in 2014, providing $45 billion split evenly between defense and nondefense discretionary spending. For 2015 the agreement adds $18 billion, again split evenly between defense and non-defense discretionary spending. The Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) provides much-needed certainty for FY2014 and FY2015 and paves the way for passage of appropriations bills through regular order, rather than through continuing resolutions and crisis management. While a deal has been struck between budget committee chairs, the full Senate and House must still pass the BBA and the president must sign it into law. It's important to note that initial reaction to the deal from both parties has been positive. If the deal fails, however, a full year continuing resolution with additional sequestration cuts will be the result, likely meaning a continuation of harmful sequestration cuts that are impacting children and youth.
Tuesday’s election results brought in a new wave of hope for our nation’s children. As many of the newly elected officials and their proposals promised to bring sweeping reform across some of our largest school districts, some officials went even a step further and promised expansion of afterschool and summer programming.
In New York City, the newly elected Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged to improve communication between the New York State Education Department, Homeless Services and Child Services. At the center of his educational platform is a plan to provide universal pre-kindergarten and increase afterschool programming for middle school students. To raise the necessary funds, the mayor will raise the NYC income tax rate for incomes above $500,000 from 3.876 percent to 4.3 percent. According to the Independent Budget Office, a municipal agency, the increase would average out to $973 a year for each of the 27,300 city taxpayers earning between $500,000 and $1 million. His campaign website expands on his afterschool proposal:
Over the last several years in New York City, afterschool programs have been dramatically cut from 87,000 slots in 2008, to roughly 20,000 slots for FY2014. Bill de Blasio has called for a large-scale expansion of afterschool programs for all middle school students by taxing New York’s wealthiest residents. The extended learning time in afterschool programs helps our students make positive gains in their academic performance, benefit from diverse programs that enrich learning, improve communication skills with adults, decrease behavioral problems, and it offers young people alternatives to trouble on the streets.
In late October former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger came to Washington, D.C., to shine a light on the importance of federal funding for afterschool programs. Through meetings hosted by leadership in both the House of Representatives and the Senate with both Republicans and Democrats, as well as a meeting with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and a stop at the new D.C. After-School All-Stars program, Gov. Schwarzenegger made clear the importance of afterschool programs in keeping young people safe and supported, inspiring learning for children and youth, and helping working families.
The focus of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s meetings on Capitol Hill was to express strong support for continued federal funding for afterschool programs through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative. The governor urged Members of Congress to find a separate funding stream for lengthening the school day or school year so that it doesn't compete with funding for afterschool programs. He also called for supporting the 21st CCLC program so that afterschool programs become an expectation, not an afterthought.