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Snacks by Erik Peterson
DEC
8
2016

POLICY
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Update: Congress poised to pass second short-term stopgap spending bill

By Erik Peterson

This week, the House of Representatives released the text of a new short-term continuing resolution (CR) that Congress must pass by this Friday, December 9th to avoid a government shutdown. The CR will maintain the federal government’s current funding level through April 28, 2017. This second CR will pick up where the first one, passed in late September, left off.  This means that funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers will be maintained at the current level for another four months.

In April, lawmakers must negotiate a final spending bill in order to keep the government operating through the end of FY17 on September 30, 2017. This will likely take the form of either a third CR or an omnibus spending bill.

Some conservative Members of Congress are urging their leadership to enact cuts to domestic discretionary l spending levels in any final bill that is passed next year. If these efforts are successful and the final spending bill appropriates less money than FY16  spending levels, it will likely result in fewer children attending local afterschool and summer learning programs that leverage federal support through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative and the Child Care Development Block Grant.

Make your voice heard: use our action center to share your thoughts on the appropriations process and its impact on afterschool with your member of Congress to ensure that no cuts are made late in the fiscal cycle next year.

The CR also includes provisions that will be of interest to summer learning programs operating the Summer Meals program—namely, it includes funding to maintain both the summer Electronic Benefit Transfer food program for low-income children who get meals at school during the academic year and the Child Nutrition Information Clearinghouse.   

Congress is expected to wind up much of their work by next week and will officially convene the 115th Congress on January 3rd.

NOV
30
2016

POLICY
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Who is Trump's nominee for education secretary, Betsy DeVos?

By Erik Peterson

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Last week, President-elect Donald Trump announced the selection of Michigan philanthropist and education activist Betsy DeVos as his nominee for education secretary. DeVos is an advocate for school choice, including private school voucher programs, and is a past chairwoman of the Republican Party of Michigan.

DeVos is expected to go through the confirmation process in the Senate early next year. Little is known about her position on education issues; however, she has reportedly kept quiet about Common Core, which President-elect Trump heavily criticized during the campaign. She has served as chairwoman of the board of the Alliance for School Choice and heads the All Children Matter Political Action Committee, which she and her husband founded in 2003 to promote school vouchers, tax credits to businesses that give private school scholarships, and candidates who support these causes.

Her other activities on behalf of public-school reform have included membership on the boards of directors of  Advocates for School Choice, the American Education Reform Council, and the Education Freedom Fund. She has chaired the boards of Choices for Children and Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP), and is chair of the American Federation for Children (AFC), which describes itself as "a leading national advocacy organization promoting school choice, with a specific focus on advocating for school vouchers and scholarship tax credit programs."

DeVos also serves on the board the Foundation for Excellence in Education, an organization connected with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush that envisions an education system capable of maximizing every student's potential for learning and preparing them for success in the 21st century. 

NOV
17
2016

POLICY
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Congress begins lame duck session to address spending bills and more

By Erik Peterson

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

This week Congress resumed its 114th session a week after the Congressional and Presidential election. The so-called ‘lame duck’ session is expected to last through mid-December with a break for the Thanksgiving holiday. The exact agenda for the session is still somewhat unclear but a number of activities are expected to be addressed.

The top priority is ensuring the federal government remains funded after the current FY2017 continuing resolution expires on December 9, 2016. While previously it appeared Congress would pass an omnibus spending bill or mini-bus spending bills, it now looks like Congress will pass a second short-term continuing resolution instead, funding the government through March of 2017.

House Republicans pushed the decision not enact full-year funding bills but to instead pass another continuing resolution (CR) through the end of March – half-way through the 2017 fiscal year.  President-elect Trump is reported to have favored this approach, which will let the Republican Congress and President finalize the remaining 11 appropriations bills, including the bill funding education programs. Senate Democrats and President Obama have reportedly signaled that they would accept a new CR if it was “clean” of policy riders. This second CR could include more changes in funding for specific programs (known as anomalies) and a different across-the-board cut to keep total funding under the defense and non-defense caps.  The final Labor-HHS-Education bill funding the second half of the year may look similar or very different from the ones approved by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees earlier this year. 

What does this mean for afterschool?

Funding for afterschool programs like the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative and Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) would be subject to the across the board funding cut in the new CR. Funding levels for these programs in the final spending bill in March when Congress takes up spending again will be uncertain. 

Additional legislation relevant to afterschool programs that could be considered during the lame duck include reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, and the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. All three of these have bipartisan versions alive in the Senate or House but would need additional work and time to advance to the President’s desk. Currently it appears none of these measures have the momentum needed to pass.  

Also during first week of the lame duck session, newly elected members of Congress participated in new member orientation, and House and Senate leadership for the 115th Congress was elected. Some committee assignments and leadership posts have begun to be posted as well. Among the changes so far, the new Ranking Member on the Senate Appropriations Committee will be Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) replacing retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).  Sen. Patty Murray (D0WA) will continue as both Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member and LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member. 

You can make an impact by introducing yourself to officials who have just been elected in your community. Use the sample letter available in our election kit to begin cultivating these lawmakers as allies for your afterschool program and plant the seeds of a valuable partnership.

NOV
11
2016

POLICY
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Looking toward a new year, administration and Congress

By Erik Peterson

The results of the 2016 presidential race, as of November 11, 2016. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

With the election behind us, many are asking what's next with regard to the next administration and Congress. While it's too soon to answer all the questions, it is a good time to think through timelines and strategies for working with the transition team for the new administration as well as the new 115th Congress.

President-elect Donald Trump's transition transition team has been quietly working in Washington for the past several months (as had Hillary Clinton's transition team), reviewing potential cabinet position nominees and developing plans for the first 100 days of Trump's presidency. While some potential cabinet members have been discussed in the media, there has been little speculation about a possible Secretary of Education, though former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson has been floated as a possibility. President-elect Trump has also suggested that he might pick someone from business for the post. Williamson M. Evers and Gerard Robinson are on the Trump transition team, and have been developing possible education policy positions. Evers is a research fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution, and Robinson, who was Florida’s commissioner of education for a year, is a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Robinson also served as principal investigator on the 2007 Mott-funded study “More than homework, a snack, and basketball: Afterschool Programs as an Oasis of Hope for Black Parents in Four Cities,” published by the Black Alliance for Educational Options.

The Afterschool Alliance submitted a memo to the Trump transition team calling for continued support of children and working parents through leveraging federal funds used by local school and community based-afterschool and summer learning programs. Additionally, the memo calls for the following:

  • Set a date and agenda for a White House summit on the role community programs, faith-based organizations and supports beyond the school day can have in keeping young people safe and secure from crime and preparing young people for jobs and careers.
  • Participate in the April 5, 2017 Ready to Work Summit to be hosted by the University of Southern California Schwarzenegger Institute on the role of afterschool in preparing our students for the future, by sending an official representative.
  • Appoint a Secretary of Education that is a champion of school-community partnerships. A good leader understands the importance of partnerships, listens to the voices of young people and communities, and is aware of inequities that must be met head on to close persistent opportunity and achievement gaps. Our next Secretary of Education must focus on opportunities for every American student and lift up school-community partnerships such as those employed in afterschool programs and community schools as vehicles to do so.

During the campaign for the presidency, President-elect Trump put forth federal policy proposals that support afterschool programs for children, as part of his child care plan.

OCT
19
2016

POLICY
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Youth organizations send letter to Congress in support of 21st CCLC

By Erik Peterson

Late last month, Congress avoided a government shutdown by passing a short-term FY2017 continuing resolution (CR). The temporary stopgap funding measure set spending levels at the FY 2016 spending levels through December 9, 2016.

Congress is currently on recess prior to Election Day on November 8, 2016, but will be faced with passing a more permanent spending bill when they return the week of November 14th. House and Senate appropriations staff are now meeting to review and negotiate differences in the spending bills passed this summer by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. 

As more than one million parents, students and supporters prepare to celebrate Lights On Afterschool at more than 8,000 events nationwide tomorrow, October 20; major education, youth development and child advocacy organizations sent a letter to Congressional appropriators calling on them to fund 21st CCLC at $1.16 billion, the level included in the House Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) education spending bill

OCT
4
2016

POLICY
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The four categories of changes made to the Child Care and Development Fund

By Erik Peterson

Photo by mokra.

The 2016 Child Care and Development Fund Final Rule was finalized late last month by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), updating regulations to incorporate and clarify changes made through the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014. 

The Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) is the primary federal funding source devoted to improving the quality of care for all children and to helping low-income families who work or participate in education pay for child care. The federal program is also among the five largest funding streams that support local providers in offering quality afterschool programming for school-age children. CCDF provides child care financial assistance for 1.4 million children each month throughout the United States, U.S. Territories and Tribal Nations. CCDF investments in improving the quality of care also benefit millions more of the nation’s children who do not receive a child care subsidy, but who participate in child care programs that benefit from these quality investments, such as program staff and teacher training. 

On November 19, 2014, President Obama signed into law bipartisan legislation that comprehensively updated the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act for the first time in nearly twenty years. The law focused on strengthening child care to better support the success of both parents and children, while also providing a new emphasis on the importance of providing high-quality early education and care for children under the age of five. 

The final rule updates CCDF regulations for the first time since 1998 to make them consistent with the new law. The rule applies to states, territories and tribes administering CCDF and reflects more than 150 comments received on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) published in December 2015. The Afterschool Alliance provided comments on the proposed rule, several of which were incorporated into the final rule. 

The final rule recognizes the important role of school-age afterschool programs, stating:

"Research also confirms that consistent time spent in afterschool activities during the elementary school years is linked to narrowing the gap in math achievement, greater gains in academic and behavioral outcomes, and reduced school absences. (Auger, Pierce, and Vandell, Participation in Out-of-School Settings and Student Academic and Behavioral Outcomes, presented at the Society for Research in Child Development Biennial Meeting, 2013). An analysis of over 70 after-school program evaluations found that evidence-based programs designed to promote personal and social skills were successful in improving children's behavior and school performance. (Durlak, Weissberg, and Pachan, The Impact of Afterschool Programs that Seek to Promote Personal and Social Skills in Children and Adolescents, American Journal of Community Psychology, 2010). After-school programs also promote youth safety and family stability by providing supervised settings during hours when children are not in school. Parents with school-aged children in unsupervised arrangements face greater stress that can impact the family's well-being and successful participation in the workforce. (Barnett and Gareis, Parental After-School Stress and Psychological Well-Being, Journal of Marriage and the Family, 2006)."

The Office of Child Care (OCC) at HHS summarized the major changes in the CCDBG Act and the CCDF final rule into categories. 

Here are the four categories of changes made:

      1)    Protecting the health and safety of children in child care;  

      2)    Helping parents make informed consumer choices and access information to support child development;  

      3)    Supporting equal access to stable, high quality child care for low-income children; and  

      4)    Enhancing the quality of child care and better support the workforce. 

SEP
30
2016

POLICY
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Continuing resolution passes, federal government funded through early December

By Erik Peterson

Two days before the 2016 federal fiscal year (FY) ended, Congress avoided a government shutdown by passing a short-term FY2017 continuing resolution (CR). The temporary stop gap funding measure sets spending levels at the FY 2016 spending levels through December 9, 2016. The CR was subsequently signed by the President.

The bill extends current funding with a 0.496 percent across-the-board cut to all programs including federal education programs. For the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative, that means an estimated $5.8 million cut. However, because the program is forward funded, program grantees would not see the impact of that cut if 21st CCLC is funded at the current level in any final spending bill expected to pass during the lame duck session.

The measure also provides $1.1 billion to fight the Zika virus, $500 million for flood relief, and funds the Department of Veterans Affairs for the full fiscal year. The CR passed in the Senate by a vote of 72 to 26 and in the House by a vote of 342 to 85. Lawmakers were able to reach a deal after weeks of negotiations. One of the biggest stumbling blocks was disagreement over whether and how to provide aid to Flint, Michigan to address the city’s lead-tainted water system. In the end, Congress agreed to authorize aid for Flint as part of separate legislation for water infrastructure projects expected to pass during the lame duck session after Election Day in November.

Congress is now out on recess through after Election Day. The White House and Congress have until December 9 to either negotiate another CR or enact full FY17 appropriations bills. From the perspective of afterschool providers and advocates, an omnibus spending bill that includes all individual spending bills is optimal over an additional CR, as it would reduce uncertainty for state agencies who hope to hold 21st CCLC grant competitions in early 2017. Add your voice to the appropriations process through our action center.

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SEP
26
2016

POLICY
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Presidential candidates talk child care

By Erik Peterson

Images by Gage Skidmore and Lorie Shaull.

With less than 50 days left until the election for president, both candidates have now released proposals to address child care issues for America’s families. The proposals largely focus on child care for children from birth to age 8; however, there are some elements of the plans that would support parents with children in afterschool programs or who seek to access afterschool programs for their children.

Trump's child care plan

Earlier this month, Republican nominee Donald Trump released his child care proposal focusing primarily on tax credits and a mandatory minimum of six weeks of paid maternity leave for employers. The Trump plan proposes to change the tax code for working parents, allowing an income tax deduction for care of up to four children for households earning up to $500,000 and individuals earning up to $250,000. The plan offers a rebate of up to $1,200 per year for low-income families. The proposed six weeks of paid maternity leave would be financed through unemployment insurance reforms aimed at reducing fraud and abuse.

With regard to afterschool care, the Trump plan would create new Dependent Care Savings Accounts (DCSAs) for families to set aside extra money to foster their children's development and offset elder care for their parents or adult dependents. The new accounts would be universally available, and allow both tax-deductible contributions and tax-free appreciation year-to-year, unlike current law Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), which are available only if offered by an employer and do not allow balances to accumulate. The plan specifies that when established for children under 18 years old, funds from a DCSA can be applied to traditional child care, but also afterschool enrichment programs and school tuition. The proposal aims to assist lower-income parents by ensuring the government matches half of the first $1,000 deposited per year.

Clinton's child care plan

The Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, released her child care plan during the primaries last year. Clinton’s plan includes 12 weeks of paid family leave for both parents and would be paid for by tax increases on the wealthy. Her plan would also cap child care costs at 10 percent of a family’s income, and would rely on either tax cuts or block grants to help subsidize costs that exceed the cap. Additionally, the Democratic party platform included language on increased public investment in childcare, support for community schools, increased investment in afterschool, summer learning and mentoring programs, as well as funding for STEM (especially for computer science), including in the afterschool space.

For more information on the election and afterschool, visit our Campaign for Afterschool Toolkit.