|Photo by Alex Knapp.|
More than 70 attendees including dozens of staff representing senators and representatives from across the U.S. packed a briefing room in the Russell Senate Office Building last Friday, April 21, to hear from a panel of Community Learning Center providers. Local afterschool and summer learning programs leverage the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative to provide quality learning experiences to young people when school is out. Representing Community Learning Center programs from urban, suburban, and rural locations across the country, the speakers spoke to the evidence that their programs achieve a wide range of meaningful outcomes for the 1.6 million children that participate in Community Learning Centers each year.
The briefing was organized by the Afterschool Alliance and the Senate Afterschool Caucus, chaired by Senators Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Franken (D-Minn.), along with a host of afterschool stakeholders: After-School All-Stars, American Camps Association, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Save the Children, Communities in Schools, Every Hour Counts, National AfterSchool Association, National League of Cities, National Summer Learning Association and the YMCA of the USA.
Education policy staff for Senators Murkowski and Franken kicked off the event by welcoming fellow staff members and introducing panel moderator Jennifer Peck, president and CEO of the Partnership for Children and Youth based in northern California. Peck set the stage for the event by citing key research and evidence demonstrating the positive impact of Community Learning Centers on student academic outcomes as well as on other indicators of student success. She then introduced the panelists who spoke about their programs, citing research and relating personal stories that demonstrate the profound life-changing effects of quality afterschool and summer learning programs.
On April 10, the Afterschool Alliance released a letter signed by 139 national and more than 1,000 state and local organizations, calling on House and Senate appropriators to fund the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative at or above its current level of $1.167 billion and reject President Trump’s call to end federal funding for afterschool programs.
Also on Monday, Representatives Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.) sent a bipartisan Dear Colleague letter signed by 81 members of Congress to House Appropriations Committee leaders Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) with a similar message, calling for “funding of no less than $1.167 billion” for Community Learning Centers. The letter was applauded by afterschool advocates and the Afterschool Alliance.
Inside the sign-on letter
“Quality afterschool and summer learning programs are vital to communities across the nation,” said Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant in releasing the organizational letter. “The idea that the federal government would abandon the students and families that rely on afterschool is unthinkable. President Trump’s misguided proposal to eliminate 21st Century Community Learning Centers has triggered a tidal wave of opposition that’s reflected by the diverse and powerful voices that are calling on Congress to continue—or increase—federal funding for afterschool. This funding directly supports afterschool programs for 1.6 million children across the country.”
National signatories of the letter include youth-serving organizations, education groups, and organizations focused on hunger, fitness, gender equity, health, the arts, and law enforcement, among others. The list was signed by the American Federation of Teachers, American Heart Association, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, FBI National Academies, Girl Scouts of the USA, National Association of State Boards of Education, National School Boards Association, National Education Association, National League of Cities, National PTA, National Rural Education Association, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, STEM Education Coalition, United Way Worldwide, and YMCA of the USA.
The list of state and local organizational signatories is similarly broad, with signers from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The letter is addressed to the chairs and ranking members of key appropriations subcommittees in the House and Senate.
The organizations wrote, “In every state and almost every Congressional district, 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding supports afterschool and summer learning programs that offer locally based school and community solutions that keep children and teenagers safe, inspire young people to learn and support working families.”
Inside the Dear Colleague letter
In the Dear Colleague letter to appropriators in the House, the 81 signing representatives called for at least level funding of 21st Century Community Learning Centers, citing a meta-analysis of 75 separate studies which showed that afterschool students demonstrated improved behavior and performed better academically than students who did not participate in afterschool.
The letter also mentioned the impact programs have on the workforce: “More and more working families rely on 21st Century Community Learning Centers each year to ensure their children are in a safe environment during non-school hours, allowing them to excel in their jobs.”
In the face of a dire threat from the White House, this outpouring of support is encouraging to the afterschool field.
“It’s clear from these two letters that policymakers, educators, parents and a wide variety of organizations, including those focused on health, law enforcement, science education, arts and more, recognize the tremendous value afterschool programs provide,” said Grant. “The president’s proposal to eliminate Community Learning Centers doesn’t have any more traction around the country than it does here in Washington. It is up to Congress to make sure the federal budget reflects this clearly expressed demand for continued, even increased, federal support for afterschool.”
Last year, a similar congressional letter was signed by 40 members. This year’s 81 signatures show a doubling of congressional support for Community Learning Centers, which Trump’s February budget outline put on the chopping block.
Members of Congress (find yours here) are on recess and back in their home states and districts. It’s a great time to contact them about the importance of before-school, afterschool, and summer programming to you and you community.
There are lots of ways to get in touch with your representatives and show your support: send your representatives a letter or an email, post on social media, make a phone call, pay a visit to their local office, talk to them at town hall meetings or press events, or invite them to come and see your local program at work. You can also write to your local newspaper or TV station, since lawmakers will be sure to catch up on the local news while at home.
With big budget decisions on the horizon, the voices your representatives hear now and their frequency, diversity, and strength are more critical than ever before. The letters and calls in support of afterschool are streaming in and the strategy is working to influence policymakers. Add your voice and personal story to the chorus. 2017 is an important year for the children, families, and communities who need affordable quality afterschool!
By Luci Manning
The Afterschool Alliance and more than 1,400 organizations send a letter to Congress this week urging representatives to reject President Trump’s budget proposal that would eliminate funding for afterschool programs. The budget cuts would affect some 6,000 Hawaii students. “We would like (Congress) to put the 21st Century (program) back into the budget,” Afterschool Ambassador Paula Adams told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald. “Afterschool programs… are making a huge difference in our children’s lives and they are proving to be effective in who our children are in general.”
The Salisbury Daily Times editorial board argues that afterschool programs turn children into better students and better citizens, pushing back on the idea that afterschool programs don’t improve academic performance. They write: “Anyone, including the president, who thinks keeping fed and supervised after the school day ends is a waste of federal tax dollars, is sadly mistaken. ... The programs threatened by the president's proposed budget provide academic enrichment, supervised STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) activities, arts and social experiences, homework assistance, nutrition and socialization opportunities. They help youngsters develop skills they need to grow, learn and become productive, responsible citizens. Isn't that what we want, as a community?”
In an op-ed for the Plain Dealer, Annemarie Grassi, CEO of the afterschool program Open Doors Academy, details the effectiveness of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program: “Teachers report substantial progress in homework completion and overall behavior. Strong improvements have been documented for mathematics grades (36.5 percent), English grades (36.8 percent), and state tests in elementary reading and high school math. Given that many of the young people enrolling in the programs enter with notable academic deficits, these outcomes are striking. ... The 21st Century Community Learning Centers federal grant program is characterized by high impact, financial efficiency, strong results, and a solid return on investment. ... We urge the president to protect 21st Century funding and thereby stand behind an initiative that truly works – for everybody.”
About 600 to 700 Fremont Public School students could lose access to afterschool programs under President Trump’s budget proposal. The programs work to narrow the achievement gap and provide academic enrichment in coordination with the school curriculum, particularly helping lower-income students who may not have access to beneficial extracurricular activities. “We are giving kids the opportunities to participate in these activities and a lot of our teachers express that each year they see achievement from the beginning of the school year to the end of the school year raise in subjects like math and reading specifically,” Leah Hladik, program director of Fremont Expanded Learning Opportunities, told the Fremont Tribune.
By Ron Ottinger, the director of STEM Next, co-chair of the national STEM Funders Network, and the former executive director of the Noyce Foundation. Known as a leader and expert in STEM learning, Ron has spent the last nine years guiding the Noyce foundations initiatives in informal and out-of-school-time science. With STEM Next, Ron continues to work toward increasing STEM learning opportunities for youth nationally.
This blog was reposted with permission from STEM Next.
President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to afterschool programs would deny millions of American youth the opportunity to engage in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning; inhibit the development of the nation’s future scientists, engineers, inventors, and business leaders; and cut young people off from building the skills they need to advance in school, work, citizenship, and life.
If enacted by Congress, the President’s budget would eliminate the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, the single largest source of funding for afterschool and summer programs that enroll 1.6 million students across rural, urban, and suburban communities in all 50 states.
Afterschool and summer programs provide essential learning opportunities for young people. This is particularly true when it comes to STEM learning – a national priority.
And afterschool programs have the support of an overwhelming number of Americans: a recent Quinnipiac poll found 83% are opposed to cuts in afterschool funding.
The Administration has said there is no evidence that these programs are effective. That is simply not true.
By Luci Manning
If President Trump’s budget were to pass, South Carolina afterschool and summer programs serving some 13,000 students would lose $16 million dollars in federal funding. Many of these programs are run out of high-poverty schools like Pepperhill Elementary in North Charleston, where more than 100 students stay after school to get homework help, enjoy a healthy meal, and work on science projects. The program has improved students’ test scores and academic achievement, and is also a huge help to working parents. “A lot of our parents are single parents who work two or three jobs,” assistant principal Jamie McCarthy told the Post and Courier. “Not being able to have this would be taxing not only to our children, but to our families.”
On Sunday, the Keene Sentinel editorial board noted its support for maintaining afterschool funding on the local and national level. They wrote: “[Afterschool programs] provide more than babysitting services. They provide additional structure to the day for students, and added learning opportunities and focused time to work on school assignments. They also often include physical activities at a time when childhood obesity is a growing concern. They even partner with other organizations to offer even more learning venues … with Trump proposing to cut 21st Century Community Learning Center grants … it’s going to be up to local boards and residents to determine whether they’ll fall by the wayside or continue to augment learning, provide social structure, and allow parents to work.”
Afterschool Ambassador Eric Vanden Heuvel made the case for afterschool funding in a letter to the editor of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: “It was astonishing to hear the budget chief say that there’s “no demonstrable evidence” that afterschool works ... Study after study has provided evidence that afterschool programs work. They help improve students’ grades and test scores. They help improve attendance and behavior during the regular school day, building blocks of future success. They help develop lifelong habits like physical activity and making healthy choices. They keep kids safe during a time of day when they might otherwise find trouble. They make it possible for their working parents to keep their jobs ... Federal support for afterschool is modest, but crucial. Congress should reject the president’s proposal to cut it.”
The Grand Rapids Board of Education expressed strong opposition to President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to public education last week. The board plans to contact Michigan’s U.S. representatives and senators to urge them to reject the budget, which would strip more than $120 million for afterschool programs and teacher training from the state. Grand Rapids Board of Education President Tony Baker told the Grand Rapids Press that it’s the first time he can recall the district formally responding to a proposed federal budget.
On March 16, the Aspen Institute held its annual Summit on Inequality & Opportunity in Washington, D.C. The conversations this year largely focused on income inequality and the difficulty of upward financial mobility for low-income families, contributing to the widening opportunity gap in the United States.
In the first panel of the day, Jonathan Morduch, Professor of Public Policy and Economics at New York University, and Rachel Schneider, Senior Vice President at the Center for Financial Services Innovation, talked about their book The Financial Diaries and what they learned from tracking the finances of 235 low- and middle-income families over the course of a year. One key finding from the study demonstrated the overwhelming amount of income instability that low- and middle-income families experience from month to month and how it affects their daily lives and the way they plan their finances.
By Luci Manning
Almost 130 afterschool programs in the Houston area may lose federal funding under President Trump’s proposed budget calling for the elimination of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative. More than 103,000 students across Texas participate in afterschool programs and their participation results in demonstrable academic benefits like increased attendance and improved test scores. “For a lot of these kids, we feel like we’re the difference,” Communities in Schools senior project director Kam Marvel told the Houston Chronicle. “Offering 15 additional hours of education a week improves the chances of passing the test and increases exposure to certified teachers.”
Some 1,500 students in Lake area schools take part in afterschool programs like Afterschool Ambassador Colleen Abbott’s LEAP program (Learning Enriched Afterschool Program), engaging in STEM learning, physical education, and homework help. Despite the improved test scores, grades, and attendance records of participating students, LEAP and other programs may lose funding under the president’s proposed federal budget. Abbott believes these programs are essential not only for students but also for working parents. “The families we support are hardworking individuals who strive to provide for their kids in order to give their children opportunities to succeed,” she told the Lake News.
President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to afterschool programs would be devastating for students and parents in New Jersey, according to advocates and program operators. “Losing this would be a devastating blow to our students and families,” Wildwood supervisor of curriculum Josepha Penrose told the Press of Atlantic City. “This does allow more parents to work knowing their children have a safe place to go after school.” Programs like the Boys & Girls Club serve 26,000 students in 57 school districts across the state and give students a safe, engaging place to spend the hours after school ends and before their parents get home from work.
In a letter to the Argus Leader, Afterschool Ambassador Heather DeWit explains why afterschool programs are critical for her children and other students throughout South Dakota: “The caring adults in after school and summer programs have made a positive difference for both my children. They have had opportunities to make a difference in their world, been supported by positive role models and learned new things, all while I was busy at work... The economic toll we would face in South Dakota. if working parents lost this critical support, the risk factors our children would face, and the incredible benefits our children would lose, make this an obvious area where cuts would be tragic.”
|Photos by Every Child Matters|
Following the release of the president’s budget proposal, Every Child Matters is calling on the afterschool field to send Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), evidence and testimonials that before- and afterschool programs work.
Join a growing cohort of afterschool program providers, teachers, parents, and state and national partners in a coordinated online-offline effort to send a #Message2Mulvaney. Here’s how:
- Gather a group of afterschool supporters and write messages on brown paper lunch bags. Mail your bag to the Every Child Matters national office by Tuesday, March 28—they’ll hand-deliver your messages to Mulvaney himself.
- Sign the #Message2Mulvaney petition and share your message to Mulvaney. The Every Child Matters team will write it out on a brown paper lunch bag and deliver your message to Mulvaney’s office.
- Tweet out your message using the #Message2Mulvaney hashtag.
Eager to learn more? Check out the #Message2Mulvaney partner toolkit for resources like sample Facebook and Twitter posts and graphics and plenty of inspiration from your fellow supporters! For more ways to join the fight to save afterschool funding, visit our action center.