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Strategies to fight cuts highlighted in afterschool policy webinar

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Strategies to fight cuts highlighted in afterschool policy webinar

On Wednesday, the Afterschool Alliance hosted the webinar "Déjà Vu: The President's Budget Eliminates Afterschool Funding. What Happens Now?" providing the field with a blueprint of the challenges facing afterschool funding and what can be done to fight elimination of funding.

Erik Peterson, vice president of policy for the Afterschool Alliance, opened the webinar with an in-depth look at the federal policy landscape, including the victories of the previous year and the obstacles yet to come. When the FY2018 omnibus budget was signed into law by the president in March, it increased funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers by $20 million, increasing available funding to $1.21 billion—a win for children, families and the country. The proposed increase means doors to quality local afterschool and summer learning programs will stay open for 1.7 million students and families. Additionally, it will make programs available for 20,000 of the 19.4 million students currently waiting for access.

Yet, like a bad broken record, the administration's budget proposal for FY 2019, released in February, calls for the complete elimination of 21st Century Community Learning Center funding again. The budget proposal also calls for massive cuts to a wide array of other federal funding streams that go to afterschool programs. While the president's budget is dead-on-arrival in Congress, according to Peterson, it nevertheless constitutes a legitimate threat to afterschool funding, and therefore advocates should make sure their representatives know that their constituents support federal funding for afterschool.

To that end, the next part of the webinar included presentations on social media advocacy and hosting a successful afterschool program site visit for your policymaker. Some of the social media tips include:

  • When sharing with your personal network, focus on educating your followers about the impact of afterschool and providing resources for people to take actions.
  • When communicating via social media to your policymakers, use compelling visuals and tell a story that describes how afterschool impacts their constituency. You can also use our helpful Social Media Lookup Tool to find your elected officials' accounts on social media.
  • Our consistently-updated 2018 Digital Action Toolkit is full of tips and sample language for all of your digital advocacy needs, including social media, emails, and blogs.

Ben Rediske, a program director with SOAR and current Afterschool Ambassador, gave valuable insight into the successful site visit he hosted for Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) in March. Among the many helpful suggestions and lessons-learned, he included:

  • Contacting your policymaker's office early and often
  • Developing a structured agenda of what you'd like to include in the site visit, with the most important activities happening first
  • Using social media to both promote the site visit and to publicly thank your policymaker for attending after the fact—it's a chance for mutually beneficial PR!

Webinar attendees were also encouraged to take advantage the fast-approaching 2018 Afterschool for All Challenge, when advocates from across the country will make the case for afterschool funding on Capitol Hill. On Thursday, April 19 we're encouraging at-home advocates across the country to take two minutes of their lunch break to save afterschool programs for nearly 2 million kids by calling Congress and voicing support for 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

To get even more helpful tips, tools, and information, the webinar recording and its associated resources are now available online, available for access at any time.

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