With 12 days remaining in the current federal fiscal year, both chambers approved a continuing resolution (CR) late last week ensuring that the federal government will be funded and operational through Dec. 11. The stopgap measure is funded at $1 trillion, which is less than the Senate would like but more than the Budget Control Act actually allows. Once the bill expires in mid-December, Congress will have to decide whether to extend the CR a few more months until the next Congress gets organized, or to go ahead and fund federal operations for the remainder of the fiscal year. It's not too late to reach out to your representative and senators to encourage their support of afterschool programs.
Congress is now in recess until after the Nov. 4 election. The Senate has already announced its Nov. 12 return. When Congress returns it will resume as a lame duck session that could address a number of issues in addition to the CR. Many Members of Congress will be in their districts campaigning next month, which presents an excellent opportunity to invite incumbents and candidates to Lights On Afterschool celebrations as a way to raise awareness of the impact that afterschool and summer learning programs have on children, youth, their families and communities.
Last night the House of Representatives passed S.1086–The Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014: Amended Version. The bipartisan, bicameral bill represents a compromise of the legislation that passed the Senate in March by a vote of 96-2. Due to the changes in the House version, the Senate will need to pass the bill again before it can go the president’s desk to be signed into law. The Senate is expected to take action this month. This marks the first time in 18 years that comprehensive Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) reauthorization legislation has passed both the House and Senate.
The bill that passed last night reflects a bipartisan agreement reached by Congressional leaders last week to reauthorize CCDBG after several months of negotiations by Reps. John Kline (R-Minn.), George Miller (D-Calif.), Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) and David Loebsack (D-Iowa), as well as Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), and Richard Burr (R-N.C.). The agreement will enhance transparency, strengthen health and safety protections, and improve the quality of care for children of low-income families aged birth to 13.
Last week, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced the Middle School Technical Education Program or Middle STEP Act (S. 2788). The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Boxer, Casey and Warner and is intended to increase the exposure of middle school students to careers outside of traditional pathways through career and technical education. When introducing the bill, Sen. Kaine said:
“Career and technical education, CTE, are a proven way to help students explore their own strengths and preferences, as well as how they match up with potential future careers. However, limited funding for middle school CTE programming often means students have to wait until high school for this exposure.
Studies have found that middle school students greatly benefit from career and technical education development programs that promote career exploration skills, as well as increase knowledge of career options and career pathways. Middle school is an important time for students to explore their own strengths, likes, and dislikes, and career and technical education exploration programs are great tools to educate them about the type of course or training that goes into a career field that matches their interests.”
This post was originally published on Huffington Post's Education Blog. Read the original post and share your thoughts with the HuffPost community.
Before former Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont introduced the first legislation to provide federal funding for afterschool in 1994, the federal government played essentially no role in providing meaningful support and programming for young people in the hours after the school day ended and before parents arrived home from work. Sen. Jeffords, who passed away on Aug. 18 at the age of 80, was a pioneer in the national afterschool movement. He worked tirelessly to build congressional and presidential support for a national afterschool and summer learning program infrastructure that lives on today as the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative (21st CCLC).
Sen. Jeffords had many proud accomplishments, including chairing the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and helping to shape the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the No Child Left Behind Act and the Higher Education Act. But advocates for afterschool remember him best as one of the original authors of the legislation that created the 21st CCLC.
Congress is out on August recess until early September, however discussions on a variety of topics continue to take place. In particular, momentum appears to be growing in support of the Child Protection Improvement Act (S. 1362). The bipartisan legislation introduced by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) about one year ago seeks to establish affordable access to an all-encompassing criminal background check database system accessible by afterschool and other youth-serving organizations. While all youth-serving organizations can check the in-state criminal records of job applicants and volunteers, only one-third of states provide these organizations with access to the FBI database to conduct nationwide criminal background checks.
Earlier this summer, Sen. Schumer joined afterschool and youth organizations in New York for a press event highlighting the need and potential impact of the legislation. The bill builds off of the now expired pilot program created by the PROTECT Act of 2004 that gave selected youth-serving organizations access to nationwide criminal records. Statistics from that program show the importance of having comprehensive background checks. In that program, 6 percent of applicants had a criminal record that should have prevented them from working with children. Additionally, 40 percent of those crimes were not committed in the same state in which the person applied for the job or volunteer opportunity, meaning that the record would be undetected without a nationwide criminal record search.
Last week the Senate voted 95-3 to pass the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which would reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. The bipartisan, bicameral bill seeks to improve the nation’s workforce development system. As discussed in a previous blog, the legislation focuses in part on providing comprehensive supports and programming for out-of-school young people. Those provisions from Title I of WIOA include:
While Congress remains stalled with the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the 2015 budget appropriations process; states and localities are experiencing considerable momentum. Among the jurisdictions making progress in advancing funding and policy for afterschool programs are Washington, D.C., New York state and California:
This week Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced the bipartisan Summer Meals Act, S. 2527, which would enhance the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Summer Food Service Program. The legislation would help improve nutrition and enhance learning in underserved areas by better integrating summer learning programs with meal programs, making it easier for community-based organizations to participate in the summer meals program, addressing barriers to summer meals in rural communities and by providing a third meal for children who attend evening enrichment programs.
Across the country, 31 million children receive free or reduced price school lunch—meaning their families live at or near the poverty line—but only 1 in 7 of these high-need children have access to summer meals. The Summer Meals Act would help more children access healthful food by lowering the community threshold from 50 percent to 40 percent or more of students receiving free or reduced price lunch to be eligible for the summer meals program, making it consistent with the eligibility for summer learning programs provided through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative. This legislation would also reduce the paperwork burden for community based organizations who want to participate in the program, provide children with transportation to the summer meals sites in hard-to-serve areas, and would also offer an additional meal to children who attend evening programs.
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|Lights On Afterschool Gallery||Afterschool in Action: Innovative Afterschool Programs Supporting Middle School Youth (2013)|