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Policy News

JAN
22

Senate HELP Committee holds hearing on testing and accountability

On Wednesday, January 21, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) under Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) held a hearing on Fixing No Child Left Behind: Testing and Accountability.  The hearing focused on reviewing the testing and accountability measures for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

This was the first hearing for the HELP Committee in the 114th Congress and Chairman Alexander used the opportunity to outline his agenda for the new Congress, reiterating his commitment to fixing No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and promising to have a bill ready for the floor by the end of February.  A working draft for the bill was posted on the Committee website last week and presents two options for testing.  The first option gives flexibility to the states to decide what to do, while the second option maintains current law testing requirements.

Below is a list of the witnesses present at the hearing.  Their written testimony can be found here.

Read Afterschool Snack blog entries about: Congress ESEA Federal Policy
JAN
22

New York City moving toward afterschool for all

This month, Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City Department of Youth and Community Development Commissioner Bill Chong announced the opening of 49 new School’s Out New York City (SONYC) programs, adding 2,500 afterschool seats for middle schoolers.  During his term, the Mayor aims to provide an afterschool program to any middle schooler who wants one.

271 SONYC programs were launched in September, marking the largest expansion of afterschool for middle schoolers in city history, and likely in the nation.  According to Mayor de Blasio, New York City’s historic investment in middle school afterschool has resulted in enrollment reaching 121 percent for the more than 75,000 city-funded afterschool seats currently available to middle school students.  Before the expansion, New York City was already far above the national average for afterschool participation, with 28 percent of children participating compared to 18 percent nationally.

“With thousands of new seats added for our city’s youth at diverse non-public schools and community centers citywide, more of our parents and families can rest assured their children have positive alternatives during a key period of their lives,” said Mayor de Blasio.  “Every middle schooler in New York City deserves access to a safe and engaging environment after the school bell rings.”

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JAN
21

President Obama's State of the Union: An afterschool perspective

Last night, President Obama delivered his sixth State of the Union address to a Congress that for the first time in his presidency is controlled by Republicans in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.  Key highlights of the speech included tax proposals that would boost middle-class families and a new approach to immigration and a push for free education at community colleges.  Several elements of the speech are of interest to friends of afterschool, including new tax incentives for child care and a focus on community colleges.

The president proposed streamlining child care tax incentives to give middle-class families with young children a tax cut of up to $3,000 per child.  The president’s proposal would streamline and dramatically expand child care tax benefits, potentially helping 5.1 million families cover child care costs for 6.7 million children.  The proposal follows up on recent legislation and some new investments to improve child care quality, access, and affordability for working families.  The current average child care tax benefit of $550 falls short of the cost of child care, including the cost of quality school-age afterschool and summer care.  According to supplemental material from the Department of Health and Human Services, the president’s proposal would:

Read Afterschool Snack blog entries about: Federal Policy Obama
JAN
16

21st CCLC initiative eliminated in Sen. Alexander's ESEA reauthorization discussion draft bill

As we previewed earlier this week, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization process officially kicked off late on Tuesday night with the release of Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander’s (R-TN) staff discussion draft reauthorization bill.  The proposed “Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015” would replace the 2001 No Child Left Behind law and seeks to increases flexibility for states under a reduced federal footprint.  The proposed bill offers two approaches to annual testing requirements, makes teacher evaluation through test scores optional and eliminates a range of existing programs including the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative that currently provides afterschool and summer learning programs to more than 1.6 million students.

Separately on Wednesday, Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan responded to the Chairman’s draft by expressing serious concern with a number of provisions.  The tentative process moving forward includes a number of discussion sessions giving Senate HELP Committee members’ staff an opportunity to fully understand the 400-page bill, followed by negotiations to determine the legislation that will be marked up in the Senate HELP Committee likely during the middle of next month.  An ESEA bill could be debated on the Senate floor as early as this spring or summer.

Read Afterschool Snack blog entries about: 21st CCLC Congress ESEA Federal Funding Federal Policy Legislation
JAN
14

USDA proposes new meal pattern requirements for the Child and Adult Care Food Program

On January 9, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released proposed new rules (pdf) governing the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).  Every day, more than 3 million children and adults receive meals through CACFP in Head Start programs, child and adult day cares, emergency shelters, and afterschool programs.  The new meal pattern requirements align with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans as required by the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010. These guidelines will help to ensure every meal received through the CACFP program is healthy and nutritious, including those meals served by afterschool programs through the CACFP At-Risk Afterschool Meals program.

Amongst the new guidelines is an allowance for tofu as a meat alternate and a requirement that flavored milk be fat-free.  The guidelines do differentiate between food items and serving sizes provided to infants, toddlers and pre-school age children in child care settings, versus meals and snacks served to school-age children in afterschool program settings. With these new guidelines the USDA has taken a step forward in providing nutrient rich meals to children.  Under the proposed guidelines, there will be no increase in funding accompanying the changes.

The USDA is now accepting comments on the proposed rules, details on what kind of feedback the USDA is looking for and how to submit can be found here (pdf).  There is a 90-day comment period.  All interested afterschool providers are encouraged to submit comments to the USDA.

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) will be hosting a webinar on January 27 at 1:30 p.m. ET, titled “New Healthier CACFP Meal Standards: What you need to know,” featuring USDA and FRAC experts.  Please refer to the FRAC website for more information and register for the webinar.

Read Afterschool Snack blog entries about: Federal Policy Health and Wellness Nutrition
JAN
13

New year, new Congress, new momentum

2015 has only just begun but Congress is already into its second week and legislative priorities are emerging for the year ahead.  The 114th Congress convened last week with Republicans controlling both the House (246 Republicans to 188 Democrats, 1 vacancy) and the Senate (54 Republicans to 44 Democrats, with 2 Independents who caucus with the Democrats) as a result of the 2014 midterm elections.  What does the 114th Congress have in store that could impact afterschool and summer learning programs?  Plenty.

DEC
15

UPDATE: FY15 spending bill passed into law; includes increase in federal afterschool funding

After a week of wrangling and late night sessions in Congress, the Senate passed the hybrid continuing resolution/omnibus government-spending bill HR 83 the evening of Saturday, December 13th. The final bipartisan vote in the Senate was 56 to 40. The House passed the bill two nights earlier on Thursday, Dec. 11th, by a bipartisan vote of 219-206. The bill funds most federal programs through the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30, 2015, and provides temporary funding for the Department of Homeland Security through a Continuing Resolution that expires on February 27, 2015. The President is expected to promptly sign the bill into law.

The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 funds the government at $1.014 trillion in discretionary spending in compliance with the bipartisan Murray-Ryan budget agreement of December 2013. Overall the Department of Education was funded at $70.5 billion, a decrease of $133 million compared to FY14. With regard to afterschool and summer learning programs, funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative was increased by $2.3 million for FY15, bringing the total to $1.152 billion, up from $1.149 billion in FY14.

DEC
10

FY15 spending bill filed, on its way to House, Senate floor for passage

House and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairs Hal Rogers (R-KY) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) filed their compromise Fiscal Year 2015 spending bill last night that, if passed by both Chambers and signed into law by President Obama, will keep the federal government funded through September 30, 2015. Currently, the government is funded through a Continuing Resolution that expires tomorrow, December 11th. The bill has strong implications for federal afterschool funding. 

The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 funds the government at $1.014 trillion in discretionary spending in compliance with the bipartisan Murray-Ryan budget agreement of December 2013. Overall the Department of Education was funded at $70.5 billion, a decrease of $133 million compared to FY14. With regard to afterschool and summer learning programs, funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative was increased by $2.3 million for FY15, bringing the total to $1.152 billion, up from $1.149 billion in FY14.