While Congress is currently engaged in debate over immigration policy and the 2013 farm bill, two other policy issues are waiting patiently in the wings for their chance in the spotlight. There is a possibility that the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the House Education and the Workforce Committee will mark up their own versions of Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bills in June. At the same time, progress is slowly being made by the Appropriations Committee staff in both the House and the Senate on FY2014 spending bills. Now is a great time to weigh in on both of these issues:
- Contact your senators and representative to encourage them to support afterschool and summer learning as part of ESEA by co-sponsoring the Afterschool for America’s Children Act, S. 326. This bipartisan bill will enhance the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative by strengthening school-community partnerships among other improvements.
- Funding for 21st CCLC and the Child Care Development Fund remain critical. Contact your senators and representative to express how sequestration and the economy have impacted access to afterschool programs in your community. Call on them to support funding for afterschool and summer learning programs in the FY2014 appropriations process.
Thank you for taking action on behalf of the 18 million children who would be engaged in afterschool programs this afternoon if a program were accessible to them.
From Alabama to Washington state and places in between, afterschool programs are embracing the USDA Child and Adult Care Feeding Program’s (CACFP) At-Risk Afterschool Meals program. This spring, hundreds of afterschool programs are providing nutritious meals at no cost to those children who need them most. With summer around the corner, providers are also taking part in the Summer Food Service Program to ensure young people have the nourishment they need when school is out. Here are a few examples from around the country:
- In Huntsville, Alabama, and the surrounding area, children will be able to receive three meals per weekday during the summer as part of Huntsville City Schools’ new Summer Feeding Program. Young people under the age of 18 will be able to enjoy up to three meals per day at no cost at 10 area schools through the Summer Food Service Program. Summer learning programs will be offered at most of the schools allowing students to nourish both minds and bodies.
- The Albuquerque Journal recently reported on a number of schools in Albuquerque, New Mexico, including Kirtland Elementary School, that started serving a meal as part of their afterschool program.
“Perhaps the most critical decision parents make in balancing their work and home life is choosing the type of care to provide for their children while they work.” We at the Afterschool Alliance couldn’t agree more with this statement by Lynda Laughlin, author of a Census Bureau report released last week analyzing child care patterns and costs. A positive and encouraging finding of the report is that the percentage of school-age kids who have no regular child care arrangement—kids in self-care—has decreased, and this is particularly true of children with a single, employed parent.
“Who’s Minding the Kids? Child Care Arrangements: Spring 2011” examined the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) data to determine the child care arrangements of preschoolers (children under 5) and school-age kids (children ages 5 to 14) and found that between 1997 and 2011, the percentage of school-age children in self-care who lived with a single, employed parent decreased from 24 percent to 14 percent. One explanation offered for this decrease was increased investment in afterschool programs. This rationale is highly probable, given that federal funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers—the only federal funding dedicated exclusively to before-school, afterschool and summer learning programs—was first appropriated $40 million in 1998, and has grown to $1.1 billion for FY2013 and serves approximately 1.1 million kids.
Today the president released his budget request for the upcoming 2014 fiscal year, which begins this October. With regard to support for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative, the president requested $1.25 billion—reflecting an increase of $100 million from FY2012 levels (pre-sequester levels). As was the case in his budget request last year, the president proposes to radically change 21st CCLC to a competitive grant at the federal level as well as prioritizing 21st CCLC grant funding for new purposes including adding time to the traditional school day or year, and for teacher planning and professional development.
In a challenging budget environment in which many programs face consolidation or elimination, the proposed increase in 21st CCLC in the budget request demonstrates the importance and value of expanded learning opportunities. Unfortunately, in the budget documents and most notably in the budget justification, the president makes the preference for expanded learning time (ELT) clear by indicating that unless ESEA is reauthorized before FY2014 begins, the Administration will request authority to use the $100 million increase for competitive grants to support ELT models.
The Afterschool Alliance supports 21st CCLC funds being directed to high-quality afterschool, before-school and summer learning programs that focus on hands-on, engaged learning that complements and enhances but does not replicate the traditional school day. While not mentioned in the president’s budget, the Afterschool Alliance feels strongly that 21st CCLC funding should continue to support the partnerships between schools and community- and faith-based organizations that help children improve academically, socially and behaviorally while parents are at work. For more information on expanded learning, see our expanded learning resource page.
We know, based on numerous evaluations of 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), that children who participate in these afterschool programs, especially children who regularly attend the programs, show improvement in their academic performance, engagement in school and overall behavior. The recently released report by American Institutes for Research (AIR), Texas 21st Century Community Learning Centers: Year 2 Evaluation Report, adds to the body of evidence that shows afterschool programs are making a positive impact on children’s school day performance.
AIR’s evaluation found that students participating in the Texas 21st CCLC program—also known as Afterschool Centers on Education (ACE)—saw improvements in their Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) reading and math scores, fewer disciplinary incidents than non-participating students, fewer school absences, and an increased likelihood of being promoted to the next grade. One statistic I found to be especially impressive was regardless if a student regularly attended the ACE program, participants in 9th grade through 11th grade were significantly more likely to be promoted to the next grade. The report found that for students who attended the program 30 to 59 days, the likelihood of being promoted to the next grade increased by 79 percent. For students who attended the program 60 days or more, the likelihood of being promoted to the next grade increased by 97 percent.
The above statistic transitions nicely to another key finding of the study: regular attendance in the ACE program matters. Students who attended the ACE program for 60 days or more demonstrated better outcomes than their peers who participated in the program for 30 to 59 days. Students who attended the ACE program more frequently showed greater improvement in their TAKS reading and math scores, lower disciplinary incidents, fewer absences from school and a higher rate of grade promotion. AIR reported that when compared to students who attended the program for 30 to 59 days, the grade promotion rate for students who participated in the ACE program for 60 days or more was 23 percent to 40 percent higher.