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Afterschool Alliance lauds HELP Committee vote to save afterschool funding

The Senate HELP Committee’s vote today to preserve dedicated funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative is a huge victory for the nation’s children and families, and a testament to the dedication and leadership of Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Al Franken (D-MN), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

The Committee’s vote to amend the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act by reinstating 21st CCLC is powerful evidence that senators on both sides of the political aisle understand the vital role that high-quality afterschool, before-school and summer learning programs play in the lives of our children, families and communities. Senators rightly concluded that funding for afterschool is essential, and came together to preserve it.

New language in the amendment will allow afterschool funds to be used to provide enrichment activities as part of expanded day programs that add at least 300 hours to the school day. This compromise ensures that expanded day programs tapping into 21st CCLC funds will provide care to students during the hours when parents are at work and students would otherwise be unsupervised; it also provides an opportunity for the high-quality learning experiences that are the cornerstone of quality afterschool programs to reach students in expanded learning programs. This compromise helps us continue serving students already in afterschool and it paves the way for even more champions to work together to expand support and leverage resources so we can reach more students and families with high-quality afterschool activities, whether it be part of a traditional afterschool program, a community school or another model like expanded day.

None of this would have happened without parents and afterschool educators across the nation who rallied to the defense of afterschool funding. They know better than anyone that afterschool programs keep children safe, inspire them to learn, and are a lifeline for working families. And they rose to this challenge by sending a clear message to lawmakers — in personal visits, phone calls, emails, petitions, Twitter storms and more.

That advocacy must continue. Today’s victory doesn’t mean that afterschool funding is out of danger. Funding must still survive on the Senate floor, and then in a conference committee. The House’s version of ESEA reauthorization, which was pulled from floor consideration earlier this year, would eliminate separate funding for 21st CCLC. If the House reauthorizes the legislation without restoring afterschool funding, the nation’s families will have to rely on to a House-Senate conference committee to do the job.

More than 1.6 million children are in afterschool programs across the nation because of the 21st CCLC initiative. They are the winners today. Lawmakers must ensure they continue to have access to high-quality afterschool, before-school and summer learning programs.

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Baldwin introduces Afterschool and Workforce Readiness Act

Yesterday, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Afterschool and Workforce Readiness Act (S. 899), which was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP).  Baldwin is co-chair of the Senate Committee on Career and Technical Education and sits on the Senate HELP Committee.  The act amends the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act by incorporating learning opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and career-technical education (CTE) subjects and giving high school students the opportunity to explore careers.

Specifically, the Afterschool and Workforce Readiness Act amends the 21st CCLC program by:

  • Involving local businesses and workforce boards as partners with 21st CCLC programs to improve college and career readiness and help immerse high school students in real-world work experiences
  • Helping high school students think about planning their futures by encouraging 21st CCLC programs to focus on college and career readiness in addition to academic excellence
  • Ensuring that afterschool programming offers a wide array of learning opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields as well as in career and technical education (CTE) subjects
  • Aiding states in identifying workforce-critical subjects in order to align their limited resources toward community needs and provide students the knowledge they need to get good jobs or pursue higher education

You can read more about the new bill in a one-pager released by Senator Baldwin’s office here.

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Critical Senate committee vote this week on 21st CCLC afterschool and summer learning funding

Today the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee is scheduled to begin consideration of the bipartisan bill from Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), dubbed the “Every Child Achieves Act.”  The Committee begins discussion of the bill and more than 85 amendments at 2:30 p.m. EDT this afternoon and the process could last several days.    

In general, the Every Child Achieves Act significantly reduces the federal role in K-12 education while preserving some accountability requirements.  A summary of the bill discusses the strengthening of state and local control over education decisions, the continued requirement for limited and appropriate tests to measure student achievement, and support for teachers and principals.  The full bill language is also available.

Of note to supporters of afterschool programs, the Every Child Achieves Act as drafted would eliminate the 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) initiative—the separate, dedicated federal funding that provides 1.6 million low income children with quality afterschool, summer learning and before school programs.  However, during HELP Committee consideration of the bill this week, Senators will vote on a bipartisan 21st CCLC amendment offered by Senators Murkowski (R-AK), Sanders (D-VT), Franken (D-MN), Cassidy (R-LA), Collins (R-ME) and Baldwin (D-WI) that would restore 21st CCLC while also strengthening the program.  The amendment reflects what has been learned over ten years of extensive research on student academic and nonacademic outcomes gained through regular participation in quality before school, afterschool and summer learning programs.  It also adds additional flexibility to better support strong partnerships between schools and community-based organizations through compromise language that would permit 21st CCLC funds, previously limited to supporting programs outside of the school day, to support specific allowable ‘afterschool-like’ activities that are offered in conjunction with an expanded learning program.

The Afterschool Alliance joins 17,390 Americans who signed a petition asking Congress to continue federal support of afterschool programs, as well as more than 560 local, state and national organizations from all 50 states that wrote to the Senate HELP Committee this winter urging Congress to maintain the 21st CCLC initiative as a separate and specific federal funding stream for school and community partnerships to support students in grades Pre-K through 12 afterschool, before school and during the summer.

Parents, educators, health professionals, law enforcement officials, young people and other supporters of afterschool, before-school, and summer learning programs can take action now by reaching out to Senators, particularly if they are on the Senate HELP Committee, in support of the bipartisan Murkowski Sanders 21st CCLC amendment that would ensure quality afterschool and summer learning programs continue to be provided to more than 1.6 million students.

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Take action to support afterschool and summer learning!

On April 7, 2015, Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) announced a bipartisan agreement on fixing “No Child Left Behind.” While the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative is currently not included in the bipartisan draft bill, dubbed the Every Child Achieves Act, it is expected to be proposed as a bipartisan amendment during the mark-up of the bill beginning on April 14th at 10 a.m. EDT. The mark-up could last three to four days.

The newly proposed, bipartisan legislation is the result of Chairman Alexander and Senator Murray working together over the past six weeks to develop an Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization bill that continues to measure the academic progress of students but restores to states, local school districts, teachers, and parents the responsibility for deciding what to do about improving student achievement.

Friends of afterschool, before-school, and summer learning programs can take action now by reaching out to Senators, particularly if they are on the Senate HELP Committee, in support of a bipartisan 21st CCLC amendment that would ensure quality afterschool and summer learning programs continue to be provided to more than 1.6 million students.

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21st Century Community Learning Centers: Effective support for local afterschool programs

For more than 15 years, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative has provided resources for local afterschool programs, which in turn support student success, keep children safe and are a lifeline for working parents.  Not surprisingly, parents report that they are pleased with their children’s afterschool programs: close to 9 in 10 parents with a child in an afterschool program say they are satisfied with the program overall.  Further, an overwhelming body of research shows that afterschool programs help increase school day attendance, improve grades, narrow the achievement gap and contribute to social and emotional well-being.  In particular, afterschool programs supported by the 21st CCLC initiative are helping raise student achievement, as shown by more and more studies published each year.  

I was surprised, therefore, to read that one researcher from a prominent think tank is harkening back to a controversial 21st CCLC study he led, released more than a decade ago to a critical response, as a reason to question federal support for the initiative.  He also points to a meta-analysis of existing research on afterschool programs released earlier this month, even though the authors state that their results “…cannot be generalized to draw conclusions about the effect of after-school programs beyond the outcomes examined in this study.”  Many of the outcomes examined in the meta-analysis were not even stated goals of the programs reviewed. 

It is a proven fact that afterschool programs work incredibly well.  New research from Dr. Deborah Vandell, previewed at the Society for Research in Child Development last week, shows that afterschool programs are on par with early childhood programs in supporting reading comprehension and math achievement.  And a number of recent state-level evaluations of 21st CCLC make a convincing case that this federal initiative is succeeding in positively impacting students and families:  

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House and Senate budget resolutions propose significant spending cuts

Last week, the House and Senate Budget Committees unveiled their ideas for FY 2016 federal spending.  Both chambers plan to pass budget resolutions to serve as blueprints for the upcoming Appropriations process.

House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) released his FY 2016 budget resolution last Tuesday morning.  The plan would balance the federal government’s budget in eight years by cutting domestic spending.  It cuts $5.5 trillion from the budget over ten years.  For nondefense discretionary (NDD) spending—which includes education, juvenile justice, and Health and Human Services funds that support afterschool programs—the budget maintains the FY 2016 sequester.  Locking in sequester cuts means spending increases will be unlikely for such programs in the coming year.  Starting in FY 2017, the budget cuts NDD spending each year below the sequester caps.

Specific program spending levels are not detailed in the budget proposal. With regard to K-12 education, the budget documents state the following:

“Our budget places a strong emphasis on returning the power to make education policy decisions to state and local governments, to families, and to students, rather than allowing choices to be made by bureaucrats in Washington. It eliminates unsuccessful and duplicative K-12 programs in order to increase efficiency and effectiveness. It promotes innovation and choices that provide for flexibility and innovative teaching methods.”

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New afterschool report released at Congressional staff briefing

New data, an update on the out-of-school time Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards, compelling afterschool program profiles and a nutritious lunch were all highlighted in a briefing for Congressional staff on March 10 on Capitol Hill. The event served as the official release of the new America After 3PM report on afterschool programs’ efforts to keep students healthy and active, entitled "Kids on the Move: Afterschool Programs Promoting Healthy Eating and Physical Activity."

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) kicked off the briefing with a passionate reminder about why afterschool programs are so critical to the success of young people, providing a brief history of how the federal government has helped build capacity for local afterschool programs and has spawned public private partnerships that have supported millions of young people over the past 20 years.

Moderated by Afterschool Alliance Board Treasurer Barry Ford, the panel provided an in-depth look at the wellness activities occurring in afterschool programs.

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Guest blog: Former Secretary of Education emphasizes importance of afterschool in education reform

Cathy Stevens is the Program Director for the White-Riley-Peterson Policy Fellowship at the Richard W. Riley Institute at Furman University.

Former U.S. Secretary of Education and South Carolina Governor Dick Riley told an audience of decision-makers charged with undoing decades of educational inequities in South Carolina that afterschool and expanded learning are a key part of the comprehensive, “collective impact,” education reform needed for rural and poor school districts.

In late 2014, after a 21-year lawsuit, Abbeville v. State, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the state is failing to provide its students with an minimally adequate education as required by the state’s constitution. To say this was a long time coming is putting it mildly. In response to this lawsuit, a new 17-member legislative task force began meeting in February to develop plans for revamping the school system, especially for the 33 largely poor and rural plaintiff school districts. Former U.S. Secretary of Education and South Carolina native, Richard W. Riley, opened the task force’s first meeting on February 23rd with commentary that emphasized the value of afterschool and expanded learning as part of the broader legislative response.

“Engaging, hands-on academic enrichment opportunities are needed in each elementary and middle school to help struggling students. Such opportunities also should leverage the inspiration of master teachers and the community spirit of mentors and tutors from youth, arts, culture, faith-based, science, community and business organizations,” he emphasized.

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