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Afterschool policy update: sequestration, appropriations and the fiscal cliff

By Erik Peterson

 With two weeks to go until the nation faces the fiscal cliff and across the board spending cuts known as sequestration, it is an opportune time to summarize what we know about the potential impact on afterschool and summer learning. Note that the update below represents activity as of Dec. 19, 2012, but the process is fluid and updates will be posted to this blog as needed.

The big picture of the fiscal cliff and sequestration continues to evolve: negotiations between the White House and the Speaker of the House of Representatives continue. Possible outcomes of these talks could be an extension of current deadlines, a ‘grand bargain’ that addresses revenue and spending, or anything in between. Driving the conversation is the possible extension of Bush-era tax cuts and whether extensions should only be provided for those earning incomes less than $250,000 (or another amount) per year. Spending cuts have been acknowledged publicly but little detail is available on that or any other specific component of a possible deal.

In terms of the impact on before-school, afterschool and summer learning programs, there are several different pieces in play: fiscal year 2013 (FY2013) appropriations, the supplemental spending bill addressing relief from damage caused by Superstorm Sandy, sequestration and the possibility that the charitable deduction may be scaled back as part of a ‘grand bargain’ on the fiscal cliff.


While FY2013 appropriations have been funded close to last year’s levels through a continuing resolution that expires in March 2013; there have been efforts this winter to negotiate and pass an omnibus or minibus spending bill that would include Labor, Health and Humans Services (LHHS) and make policy changes in addition to setting new funding levels for the current fiscal year. With regard to afterschool program funding, amounts are expected to be level with FY2012. However, also being discussed as part of the omnibus is bill language that could divert some 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) funding away from afterschool or summer learning and instead repurpose funds for a longer school day. While the situation is extremely fluid, at this point it does not appear likely that the LHHS spending bill will pass Congress before the end of the 112th Session at the end of December.

Sandy supplemental

A bill that is likely to pass this month is the supplemental spending bill addressing relief from damage caused by Superstorm Sandy. Several school and community-based afterschool programs in New Jersey and New York were impacted by the storm that hit in late October. The Senate Appropriations Committee released the text and a summary of its $60.4 billion Sandy supplemental bill which reflects many of the same priorities in the Administration’s request. While there is no money provided through the Department of Education, the Administration’s request includes $11.5 billion to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), including for the rebuilding of public infrastructure (which includes schools and other educational facilities owned by state or local governments including school districts), and $15 billion in flexible Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds. These funds could be used for public infrastructure investments and the state or local cost share required for other federal programs.


As previously reported, sequestration is the automatic, across-the-board cuts to defense and non-defense discretionary spending authorized as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011. Unless current law is changed by an act of Congress this month, most federal programs will face an across-the-board cut of $1.2 trillion on Jan. 2, 2013. This equates to a nearly 8.2 percent cut to many federal programs that benefit afterschool, before-school and summer learning, like 21st CCLC, Title I education funds, Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG), AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps VISTA.   Sequestration estimates by the Senate Appropriations Committee suggest 145,180 fewer students would be able to access afterschool and summer learning opportunities currently provided through 21st CCLC and 80,000 fewer children would be served by the CCDBG. Because these and most federal education programs are forward funded, the expectation is that the cuts would not be felt at the local program level until the beginning of the 2013-14 school year.  There is still time for sequestration to be replaced or delayed as a result of the ongoing fiscal cliff talks between the Administration and Congress.
Charitable deduction
Among the proposed measures to raise revenues currently discussed as a part of fiscal cliff negotiations are a variety of limitations to the charitable deduction, all of which could reduce the capacity of not-for-profit charitable organizations to serve those in need and advance the common good. More than 900 charitable organizations, including afterschool providers, signed a letter to Congress and the White House last month expressing concern over the impact of charitable deduction limits.  
As negotiations continue in Congress, take this opportunity to reach out to your elected officials to make the case for supporting and funding school and community based before-school, afterschool and summer learning programs that inspire learning, keep young people safe and help working families. Take action now!
As changes occur and progress is made on a fiscal cliff deal, we will post additional updates to this blog entry.