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The 116th Congress is here: What afterschool advocates need to know (Part I)

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The 116th Congress is here: What afterschool advocates need to know (Part I)

As January winds down and the partial government shutdown on hold at least until February 15, it is a good time to look at the new 116th Congress: what are the priorities, what might get accomplished, and what are the challenges and opportunities ahead from the afterschool advocate’s perspective. Part one below provides an overview of the 116th; next week, part two will cover the afterschool policy opportunities we see in the months ahead.

The 116th: Lay of the land

The 116th Congress officially began January 3 with the election of Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House and swearing in of members in both chambers of Congress. The 116th Congress began on the 13th day of the partial government shutdown resulting from seven FY2019 spending bills not yet being signed into law, which became caught up in the disagreement with the White House over border protection funding. While the shutdown dominated much of the first month of the first session of Congress, leadership positions and assignments to committee took place. With regard to education, as expected Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) assumed the chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor, with Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) remaining as Ranking Member. A listing of the new Education Committee membership for the 116th Congress includes new House Democrats with ties to the afterschool community with Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Susie Lee (D-Nevada). Omar served as an afterschool VISTA in 2012, while Lee previously directed Communities in Schools in Nevada as well as the Nevada chapter of After-School All-Stars. The House Education and Labor Committee officially started its work on January 29, announcing subcommittee chairs and ranking members

Long time House Afterschool Caucus Co-Chair Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) takes over as chair of the House Appropriations Committee, with Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) serving as Ranking Member. Afterschool champion Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) will chair the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) with Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) remaining as Ranking Member. These committees will control the purse strings for education programs. See the list of new members of Appropriations here.

On the Senate side, leadership of the education and appropriations committees will not change, with Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) continuing to lead the Senate HELP Committee while Chair Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Ranking Member Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) will continue to lead the Senate Appropriations Committee. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) will continue to be led by Chair Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.). The Appropriations Committee membership did not change in the Senate however, three new members were added to the HELP Committee: Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), and Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada).

Challenges ahead

A crucial priority and challenge for both chambers early on in 2019 will be addressing the remaining FY2019 spending bills and border security to prevent another partial shutdown in mid-February. Beyond that other challenges are looming, including the return of the sequester and the FY2020 drastic spending caps that would mean a $55 billion cut to non-defense discretionary spending. Experts predict as well that the debt limit will need to be raised this spring. The pressure of a large budget deficit and potential automatic spending cuts driven by the sequester will make advocating for maintaining the federal investment in education and afterschool a critical priority. The Afterschool Alliance is working with a number of coalitions on these spending issues, including the NDD United coalition which is circulating a sign-on letter urging Congress to quickly negotiate a new budget agreement to avert the deep cut to non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending that would occur under the existing discretionary spending caps in FY2020.

In the immediate future, the president’s State of the Union speech has been rescheduled for the evening of February 5 and will likely include some of the administration’s broad budget priorities. As a reminder, the administration’s previous two budget requests cut the Department of Education funding by about 11 percent and proposed to eliminate funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers, the primary federal support for local afterschool programs. The administration has not yet announced a new date to release its budget, which had been expected on February 4 but will be delayed due to the 35-day government shutdown. The president’s budget will likely now be released in early to mid-March.

Issues and priorities

House Democrats have discussed key priorities for the 116th Congress, including increased transparency, accountability, and oversight of the Executive Branch, as well as a focus on infrastructure and healthcare. Recent media reports point to an introduction this week by Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.), Rep. Scott and Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) of their new iteration of last Congress’s “Rebuild America’s Schools Act.” The legislation would support investing $100 billion over ten years in school infrastructure, including digital access. With a few exceptions, the federal government currently does not fund school construction and modernization.

Other priorities for the House Education Committee include rigorous oversight of the Department of Education and ESSA implementation with a particular focus on state plans that do not pay enough attention to underserved students; Higher Education Act reauthorization; Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) and possible movement on the Child Care for Working Families Act H.R. 3773 (115) which would create a federal-state partnership that aims to ensure that families making less than 150 percent of their state's median income do not pay more than 7 percent of their income on child care. Reauthorization of the federal child nutrition programs and the Corporation for National and Community Service (which manages the AmeriCorps and VISTA programs) is also a possibility. Recent reports suggest that the Senate HELP Committee is expected to tackle CAPTA reauthorization and the Higher Education Act reauthorization as their main priorities for the calendar year.

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Get the latest afterschool STEM news in your inbox

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Get the latest afterschool STEM news in your inbox

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BY: Leah Silverberg      04/15/19

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Investments in quality afterschool STEM policy will continue in 2019

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Get the latest afterschool STEM news in your inbox

The next issue of the Afterschool Lab Report is coming in just a few days. Brought to you each quarter by the Afterschool STEM Hub, a project of the Afterschool Alliance, the newsletter provides the latest STEM education policy updates, new resources, upcoming opportunities for advocacy, and new...

BY: Leah Silverberg      10/31/19

Bipartisan Youth Workforce Readiness Act announced

In late September, plans to introduce the bipartisan, bicameral Youth Workforce Readiness Act were announced in the House and Senate by Sen. Smith (D-Minn.) and Rep .Josh Harder (D-Calif.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.). The legislation would provide funding for hands-on skills education at...

BY: Erik Peterson      10/03/19

Federal support for STEM and making in afterschool

Picture a center filled with computers, paired with a wood and metal shop, combined with a sewing studio, mixed with an arts and crafts room, filled with people of all ages building and making things to solve problems – this is the foundation of a maker space. Maker spaces were born out of...

BY: Leah Silverberg      08/12/19

Afterschool makes a difference for middle school career exposure in CTE

“Imaginations are what will carry us to the future, and (for me) Digital Harbor helped to expand it,” 7th grader Jacob Leggette proclaimed in front of the full room at the Senate Career and Technical (CTE) Education Caucus  and Afterschool Alliance Briefing on June 25. The...

BY: Jillian Luchner      07/09/19

Putting afterschool to work: Career exploration in out-of-school settings

By Jillian Luchner, Christopher Neitzey, and Austin Estes from Advance CTE. This is a cross-post of the first blog post in a series on the intersection of CTE and afterschool programs, exploring strategies and opportunities to bridge learning both in and out of the classroom. The original...

BY: Guest Blogger      06/25/19

Get the latest afterschool STEM news in your inbox

The next issue of the Afterschool Lab Report is coming at the end of April. Brought to you each quarter by the Afterschool STEM Hub, a project of the Afterschool Alliance, the newsletter provides the latest STEM education policy updates, new resources, upcoming opportunities for advocacy, and new...

BY: Leah Silverberg      04/15/19

New toolkit for partnering on career and technical education

In July 2018, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, or Perkins V, was passed by Congress and signed into law. The legislation reauthorizes the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act and provides much needed updates to the law that reflect the...

BY: Chris Neitzey      04/09/19

Investments in quality afterschool STEM policy will continue in 2019

For successful advocacy efforts, slow and steady wins the race. Advancing legislation or budget requests at the state or federal level requires resources, content expertise, and a dedication that often spans a timeframe far longer than originally anticipated. As we enter the third year of a...

BY: Chris Neitzey      12/18/18

What does the Trump administration’s 5-Year STEM Education Strategy mean for afterschool?

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine On December 4, the White House released their five-year STEM education plan, entitled Charting a Course for Success: America’s Strategy for STEM Education. The plan is a required component of the America COMPETES Act of 2010, which mandates that the...

BY: Chris Neitzey      12/07/18

Afterschool goes to college

After celebrating an updated law in Career and Technical Education (CTE) in July, it’s natural to ask “What’s next?” in the education landscape for Congress. One thing on the agenda is the Higher Education Act, or HEA, which governs federal investments in making quality...

BY: Jillian Luchner      10/09/18