Are you “Speaking Up” about digital learning this year? If not, you're missing a unique opportunity to have your views—as well as the views of your colleagues, students, their parents and the local community—included in the increasingly important U.S. national and state discussions on digital learning policies, programs and funding.
The Afterschool Alliance is proud to announce a special partnership with Project Tomorrow this year to encourage participation of afterschool organizations in their online research project Speak Up. The Speak Up National Research Project annually collects and reports on the authentic, unfiltered views of K–12 students, parents and educators about critical digital age education and technology issues. Since 2003, more than 3 million K–12 education stakeholders have shared their ideas about ed tech through the Speak Up online surveys. And we need your ideas too!
This year, for the first time, Project Tomorrow will be providing an additional online survey for community members. Local employers, after school providers, school board members and homeowners without children in the local schools can now provide their views on the role of technology in preparing students for the jobs and careers of the 21st century. This new set of data will provide valuable insights for the participating organizations as well as state and federal policymakers on the importance of digital tools and resources for college and career readiness.
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.
Last night Congress passed a bill based on an agreement struck by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that ended the the 16-day federal government shutdown and raised the debt ceiling, avoiding an international economic crisis.
After 16 days of the vast majority of the Federal workforce at home (90 percent of the Department of Education was furloughed), the bill reopens the government by providing funding through Jan. 15, 2014, at last year’s levels. For key federal funding that supports afterschool and summer learning programs, like the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative and Child Care Development Fund (CCDF), the bill means funding at last year’s levels despite increasing program costs and growing demand for quality afterschool programs. The agreement also leaves in place the sequester, which is expected to result in an additional 7.2 percent cut to federal non-defense discretionary programs on Jan. 15. Education advocates are hopeful that the conference committee established by the agreement will address the pending sequester cut. A final budget for FY2014 will have to be negotiated, voted on and signed by the president before the funding runs out on Jan. 15.
STEM, child care & federal policy filled the agenda when state afterschool networks came to Washington
Late last month, leaders from more than 40 state afterschool networks, including representatives from state education agencies, gathered for several days in Washington, D.C., for a national convening: “Expanded Learning Opportunities: STEM Programs and Systems.”
The convening, co-hosted by the Department of Education, the C.S. Mott Foundation and the Noyce Foundation, focused on creating positive STEM outcomes for more students through collaboration and cooperation among national, state and local partners. Sessions allowed network leaders and education officials to work together to consider how to leverage investments and actions to expand the availability of quality informal science in afterschool and impact more students across the country.
Deputy Secretary of Education Jim Shelton opened the conference with a well-received talk on the partnerships necessary to generate the best possible STEM outcomes in young people. Stating that learning occurring after school is just as essential as learning taking place during the school day, the deputy secretary demonstrated his understanding of the depth and power of informal STEM education occurring in quality afterschool programs.
Esther Grant-Walker is the Program Director of School Aged Childcare at the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center in New York City. Esther previously served as an Afterschool Ambassador.
A sustained advocacy campaign is key to raising public perception and awareness of afterschool programs. Planning an advocacy campaign does not need to be time consuming or costly. A very simple campaign can be as effective as an elaborate one.
During the past year, with the support of the Bowne Foundation, I began to develop a sustained advocacy campaign to promote my afterschool program. New York City afterschool program funding was threatened with cuts during the past few city budget cycles. As the Program Director of School Age Childcare at the Isaacs Center Afterschool Program, I can see that there is a need for increased afterschool advocacy to promote not just my afterschool program, but programs across the city.
I decided focus my campaign on bringing parents and schools together to support afterschool. Many of our parents take our afterschool programs for granted because they are funded by the city. They assume that funding for afterschool will always be in place. In reality, city funding is never guaranteed. To educate parents, I decided to launch an advocacy campaign that would not only teach them about the challenges facing afterschool programs, but would also train them and other community members to be active advocates for afterschool.
Jillien Meier is a Program Manager with the No Kid Hungry Center for Best Practices at Share Our Strength and oversees the Center’s work on afterschool meals, WIC and health care. Additionally, she supports No Kid Hungry Partnerships in Colorado, Connecticut, and New York City.
According to a recent survey of low-income parents, 81 percent report interest in having their children involved in fun, recreational, creative, or physical activities after school. Even better, interest in afterschool programming increases with the addition of free, healthy food.
We’re excited to announce that the hit documentary Brooklyn Castle will help kick off the Lights On Afterschool season with its national broadcast debut tonight on the award-winning PBS series POV.
Check local listings to find when it’s airing near you.
Tune in to your local PBS station tonight for the premiere of this award-winning documentary, which tells the inspirational story of a chess team at a below-the-poverty-line inner city junior high school—one that has won more national championships than any other in the country—facing recessionary budget cuts to extracurricular activities that threaten to eliminate the chess program.
With help from PBS, afterschool programs can show the film at local Lights on Afterschool events to entertain and engage adults and teens, or use trailers to help make the afterschool story come alive and spur conversation on the need for afterschool in local communities.