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FY2016 appropriations process continues in House and Senate

With House and Senate Budget Committee Chairmen announcing this week that the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Conference has reached an agreement on a joint Congressional balanced budget resolution, the FY2016 appropriations process is starting to move forward in earnest.  A challenge for appropriators will be meeting the needs of children and families given the constraints of lower spending levels.

House and Senate appropriations committees have begun holding hearings on the FY2016 spending bills, including Labor, HHS, Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee hearings featuring testimony by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and a public witness hearing this week.  At the House subcommittee hearing in early March, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) emphasized the importance of maintaining strong investments in afterschool programs through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative.

This week, Karen West, Special Projects Curriculum Supervisor, Corbin Independent Schools of Corbin, Kentucky, represented the Afterschool Alliance at a public witness hearing of the Subcommittee, presenting heartfelt testimony and calling for continued federal support of 21st CCLC, stating:

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Every Child Achieves Act passes Senate HELP Committee, includes 21st CCLC afterschool program

The Senate HELP Committee concluded its three day mark-up of the bipartisan Every Childs Achieves Act of 2015 last week, unanimously passing the new ESEA reauthorization bill and sending it to the Senate floor for consideration later this spring or in early summer. The bill now includes Sen. Murkowski’s (R-AK) bipartisan 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) amendment that passed by unanimous consent earlier last week—a significant step towards ensuring that 1.6 million young people will remain in the afterschool and summer learning programs they currently attend.

The 21st CCLC amendment that was included in the Every Child Achieves Act is based largely on the bipartisan Afterschool for America’s Children Act (S. 308) introduced by Sens. Murkowski and Boxer (D-CA) that is the product of five years of discussion with afterschool providers, parents, young people, national youth development groups, state education agencies, and other stakeholders. The amendment strengthens the 21st CCLC initiative by emphasizing better data sharing between schools and community based organizations; updating allowable uses to include STEM, physical activity, nutrition education, financial literacy, workforce development programs and more; expands program performance measures; adds a role for external intermediary organizations; and highlights professional development for program staff.

The inclusion of 21st CCLC is a true win for young people, parents and communities, and is a result of the strong bipartisan support of Sens. Murkowski, Murray (D-WA), Franken (D-MN), Sanders (I-VT), Cassidy (R-LA), Collins (R-ME), Baldwin (D-WI), Boxer , Warren (D-MA) and others, as well as the outpouring of  support from so many stakeholders – including 17,400 individuals who signed a petition supporting 21st CCLC; 560+ local, state and national groups who signed a letter of support; and more than 5,000 emails that were sent to Senate and House offices since January when draft legislation released by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee first proposed to eliminate 21st CCLC.

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A message to the afterschool community

On April 15, the Senate HELP Committee unanimously voted to adopt language that not only restores funding for afterschool and summer learning programs, but also improves the program. This vote was nothing short of miraculous and is a testament to the efforts of everyone in our field, from the dedicated staff who work with students, to the parents, advocates, law enforcement, local government, funders and researchers who have helped transform this local work into the powerful national movement we are today.

More than five years ago, the Afterschool Alliance began working with the field to develop legislation to strengthen and expand the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), the only federal funding stream dedicated exclusively to before school, afterschool and summer learning programs. The effort took more than a year, as we worked with stakeholders at every level to make sure that changes would be beneficial to our students and our programs. From the start it was a bipartisan effort, and we worked closely with Senators Barbara Boxer and Lisa Murkowski to develop and refine the legislation. We were always hopeful that it would be incorporated into the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) but, as we quickly learned, that was far from guaranteed. We have, indeed, come a very long way!

In the last Congress, while our efforts to incorporate provisions from the Boxer/Murkowski bill into 21st CCLC language in the ESEA bill were largely ignored, other challenges that would have diluted the 21st CCLC program were successfully rolled back.  The grassroots effort in doing so was tremendous, and a grasstops effort, led by our Honorary Chair Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, led to in-person meetings with key members of Congress, some of whom became champions of our cause. In this Congress, we faced an even graver danger: the complete elimination of 21st CCLC. Senate and House proposals would have lumped afterschool funding into a huge block grant that states could use for a variety of purposes inside or outside the school day. As we know from experience, if funding is not exclusively targeted to learning outside the traditional school day, it will all go to school day funding, not because afterschool isn’t needed but because schools need more resources, too.

We knew our best chance was in the Senate, and we began working with Senator Murkowski’s office to craft an amendment to restore 21st CCLC. We all knew it would be a huge, uphill battle. Getting the necessary 12 votes to pass the amendment in committee was going to be tough, since philosophically there was a push to consolidate as many programs as possible. Senator Boxer and other champions on and off the HELP committee were critical to our ultimate success. 

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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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