As summer learning program providers gear up for the summer months, now is the time to finalize arrangements for offering summer meals to participating children. The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provides at least one healthy meal at no cost to children who rely on free and reduced price school meals during the academic year. While the SFSP reaches many eligible children, the need is much greater. During summer 2011, only 1 in 7 children who were eligible for free or reduced price school lunches participated in the SFSP.
In an effort to better understand how summer learning providers feed participating children, please complete a short summer food survey, available here. The survey closes April 30, and findings will be made available this summer.
It's not too late to learn how to become a Summer Food Service Program sponsor or site.
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.
“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.
In just a few short months, schools across the country will close their doors for summer break. Summer is a fun time for many kids who spend the hot, hazy days at summer camp, on a family vacation or exploring new interests in summer learning programs. For those children that rely on meals served through the federal school nutrition programs, however, summer is a time for hunger.
The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is the federal child nutrition program that provides at least one healthy meal at no cost to children who rely on free and reduced price school meals during the academic year. While the SFSP reaches many eligible children, the need is much greater. During summer 2011, only 1 in 7 children who were eligible for free or reduced price school lunches participated in SFSP.
Last week I participated in a special Twitter town hall that focused on increasing not only the number of children participating in SFSP, but also the number of sites that offer the program. There were many great questions asked and ideas shared by participants—including questions on how summer learning programs, schools and food banks can work together to ensure children have access to healthy summer meals.
We all know that after school and during the summer are a perfect time to get kids active and teach them healthy habits for life. Afterschool and summer learning programs offer a perfect complement to the school day and allow for creative partnerships between schools and community-based organizations to help improve the health of our communities.
Kaiser Permanente is offering a new tool, Thriving Schools, to help communities get active—it’s a great instrument that afterschool programs can adopt to help strengthen their partnership with schools, or to complement the physical activity programming they’re already doing. Thriving Schools is a comprehensive effort focused on creating a culture of health for K-12 students, staff and educators both during the school day and after. By promoting workforce health and student-focused interventions—such as improving snacks and meals and increasing opportunities for physical activity—Kaiser Permanente and its partners are working to fulfill the Institute of Medicine’s call for schools and afterschool programs to be “the heart of health.” Out-of-school-time providers will find it easy to adapt and use these tools in their own programs.
Kaiser Permanente has plenty of free ready-to-use tools and resources available on their website. One of our favorites is the Fire Up Your Feetinitiative, a partnership with Safe Routes to School National Partnership and the National PTA. Fire Up Your Feet encourages educators, students and their families to walk or bike to and from school—or on their way to a before- or afterschool program! Afterschool programs can use the initiative as a fundraiser—think about incorporating Fire Up Your Feet into your Lights On Afterschool celebration in October!
In addition to programming ideas like Fire Up Your Feet, Thriving Schools also offers concrete, simple ideas for small changes you can make in your program to promote healthy eating, encourage physical activity and to create a healthy learning environment. For example:
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.
For the first time in more than four years, both the Senate and the House have passed budget resolutions. While budget resolutions in Congress don't have the force of law and largely serve as visionary documents or blueprints, they do determine the amount of money the appropriations committees will have to spend on discretionary budget items for the upcoming 2014 fiscal year that begins on October 1.
The budgets that passed are a study in contrasts. The House budget represents a significant cut to non-defense discretionary programs like education funding, while the Senate version has some cuts but also prioritizes some discretionary funding like child care and education, which is offset in part by new revenue. Crucial discretionary investments include things like afterschool and summer learning through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative, child care assistance, special education services and help for low income students through Title I. From 2010 to 2012 discretionary investments for children have already been cut by $2 billion dollars, and they are expected to drop further in 2013.
The House budget extends harmful sequestration cuts that could cut investments to kids by more than $40 billion over 11 years. These cuts fall heavily on investments in education, early childhood and children’s housing. It also cuts non-defense discretionary spending by an additional $650 billion over 10 years by shifting all the scheduled cuts in defense spending onto non-defense areas. Applied proportionally, these additional cuts could cost kids another $72 billion. Finally, the House version cuts all non-defense discretionary investments by nearly $1 trillion.
The Senate budget resolution eliminates sequestration and restores all cuts currently in effect. This alone would restore more than $4 billion in investments for children and youth for Fiscal Year 2013 including restoring afterschool supports to the 56,000 children slated to lose those programs this fall. The Senate version further lowers non-defense discretionary spending caps by $150 billion. Applying this reduction proportionally, this would result in a $17 billion reduction in funding for children’s initiatives. However, the budget proposal emphasizes the importance of early education, child care, child nutrition, as well as other areas suggesting the intent to protect critical investments in children. During the budget debate on the Senate side, Sen. Boxer sent a strong signal on the importance of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative by authoring an amendment in support of this valuable afterschool and summer learning program. While the amendment was not voted upon due to procedural issues with the budget process, the Senate remains in strong support of afterschool programs, with Sens. Murray and Harkin expressing their support for the amendment as well.
The president is expected to release his budget on April 8.