It has been about five months since the Administration and Department of Education officially announced the availability of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waivers for states seeking flexibility from NCLB requirements. While the process has been unfolding since then, last week there was a burst of activity with the announcement of the first 11 states to be granted waivers. In addition, with the second round of waivers due at the end of the month, the Department released long overdue clarification on the 11th waiver relating to the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative.
On Feb. 9, President Obama announced that ten states have agreed to implement education reforms around standards and accountability in exchange for a certain amount of flexibility from the mandates of the ten year old NCLB law. The 10 states approved for flexibility are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. The Administration granted a waiver to the 11th state, New Mexico, earlier today. Twenty-eight other states along with Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico have indicated their intent to seek waivers.
The next deadline for states waiver applications is Feb. 28. Earlier this week New Hampshire and Maine announced that they will not apply in this second round as originally planned.
The afterschool community's biggest concern with the waiver process is the optional 11th waiver on 21st CCLC. The Afterschool Alliance and a number of other organizations have expressed concern to the Department of Education that states opting for this waiver will be able to use 21st CCLC funds to add time to the school day without any guidance on how the additional time will be used, or without partnering with community-based organizations. Given the large demand for quality afterschool, before-school, and summer learning programs and the potentially high cost of adding time to the school day, this provision could result in fewer communities having access to quality out-of-school programs. Of the 11 states granted waivers last week, eight states checked the box allowing them flexibility as to how they can use their 21st CCLC funds: Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. All but one of the seven included minimal detail in their waiver application regarding how they plan to expand the 21st CCLC program in their state.
In response to concerns from afterschool advocates at the state and national level, the Department issued additional guidance to states on the 11th waiver in the form of a new addendum to their questions and answers on the waiver process. This new clarification emphasizes that existing 21st CCLC requirements prioritizing school-community partnerships cannot be waived by states; and that the "programming provided through a longer school day, week, or year, must not be 'more of the same' but instead should involve careful planning by the eligible entity to ensure that the programs or activities will be used to improve student achievement and ensure a well-rounded education that prepares students for college and careers." The new clarification also states that existing 21st CCLC grantees cannot lose their funds under the waiver process, and that the 21st CCLC "supplement not supplant" provision applies to the use of 21st CCLC funds to support expanded learning time under ESEA flexibility.
The Afterschool Alliance welcomes these new clarifications and is working with states to ensure that this updated information is reflected in any new 21st CCLC policies enacted at the state level as a result of the waiver process. The complete question and answer clarification from the Department is included below:
B-24. What does this flexibility include with respect to expanded learning time?
Under this flexibility, an SEA may request flexibility to permit an eligible entity to use funds under the 21st CCLC program to provide activities that support high-quality expanded learning time during an expanded school day, week, or year in addition to activities during non-school hours or periods when school is not in session (i.e., before and after school or during summer recess). (Modified Feb. 10, 2012)B-24a. How does ESEA flexibility affect the 21st CCLC program?At an SEA’s option, the flexibility allows for an additional use of funds for the 21st CCLC program — to provide activities that support high-quality expanded learning time. Expanded learning time is the time that an LEA or school extends its normal school day, week, or year to provide additional instruction or educational programs for all students beyond the State-mandated requirements for the minimum number of hours in a school day, days in a school week, or days or weeks in a school year. Because the 21st CCLC statute restricts the use of program funds to support a broad range of academic enrichment and other activities during “non-school hours or periods when school is not in session,” and expanded learning time is, by definition, an extension of the normal school day, week, or year, an SEA would need the optional ESEA flexibility waiver to allow a 21st CCLC subgrantee to use 21st CCLC funds for activities that support expanded learning time.With the exception of carrying out 21st CCLC activities during an expanded school day, week, or year, an eligible entity in a State that receives a waiver must comply with all other 21st CCLC requirements. In other words, other provisions of the 21st CCLC program remain unchanged, including the allocation of funds to SEAs by formula, the requirement that SEAs use 95 percent of their State formula grants to make competitive subgrants, and the entities eligible to compete for those subgrants (which consist of LEAs, community-based organizations, other public or private entities, and consortia of those entities). In a State that has been approved to implement ESEA flexibility, and that has requested the optional flexibility for the 21st CCLC program, eligible entities may submit applications to the SEA for activities that support expanded learning time and/or to operate programs before and after school and during summer recess as allowed under current requirements. For more information on the 21st CCLC program, please refer to ESEA sections 4201-4206 and the February 2003 non-regulatory guidance [available at http://www2.ed.gov/programs/21stcclc/guidance2003.pdf]. (Added Feb. 10, 2012)B-24b. When would ESEA flexibility for 21st CCLC funds take effect?ESEA flexibility would not affect current 21st CCLC subgrantees. Rather, this flexibility would take effect for local competitions conducted after an SEA receives ESEA flexibility. Thus, when an SEA runs its next 21st CCLC competition following the receipt of ESEA flexibility, it may solicit applications from eligible entities to provide activities that support high-quality expanded learning time in addition to activities conducted during non-school hours or periods when school is not in session. (Added Feb. 10, 2012)B-24c. What are some examples of ways an eligible entity might use 21st CCLC funds to provide activities that support expanded learning time?An eligible entity in a State that has been approved to implement ESEA flexibility (and has requested the optional flexibility for the 21st CCLC program) may use 21st CCLC funds to provide activities that support high-quality expanded learning time. The 21st CCLC activities may be carried out at any point in time during an extended school day, week, or year. For example, if an LEA lengthens its school day beyond the State minimum, the LEA or another eligible entity might use 21st CCLC funds to provide supplemental science, reading, civics, or art instruction or other supplemental academic enrichment activities to students in the morning or afternoon to allow teachers time to collaborate or plan. Similarly, an LEA working with a community partner, might use 21st CCLC funds to extend its school week and incorporate enrichment activities, such as debate or college preparation, on either Saturday or a week day. Using 21st CCLC funds to support expanded learning time should not be just “more of the same”; it should involve careful planning by the eligible entity to ensure that the programs or activities will be used to improve student achievement and ensure a well-rounded education that prepares students for college and careers. (Added Feb. 10, 2012)B-24d. Does the 21st CCLC supplement, not supplant provision apply to the use of 21st CCLC funds to support expanded learning time under ESEA flexibility?Yes, the 21st CCLC supplement, not supplant provision applies to the use of 21st CCLC funds to support expanded learning time under ESEA flexibility. Thus, an SEA receiving a waiver to permit an eligible entity to use 21st CCLC funds to provide activities that support expanded learning time programs must ensure that the 21st CCLC funds are used to supplement, and not supplant, Federal, State, local, or other non-Federal funds that, in the absence of the 21st CCLC funds, would be made available for programs and activities authorized under the 21st CCLC program (ESEA 4203(a)(9) and 4204(b)(2)(G)). (Added Feb. 10, 2012)