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APR
24
2017

POLICY
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Experts speak up for Community Learning Centers on Capitol Hill

By Erik Peterson

Photo by Alex Knapp.

More than 70 attendees including dozens of staff representing senators and representatives from across the U.S. packed a briefing room in the Russell Senate Office Building last Friday, April 21, to hear from a panel of Community Learning Center providers. Local afterschool and summer learning programs leverage the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative to provide quality learning experiences to young people when school is out. Representing Community Learning Center programs from urban, suburban, and rural locations across the country, the speakers spoke to the evidence that their programs achieve a wide range of meaningful outcomes for the 1.6 million children that participate in Community Learning Centers each year.

The briefing was organized by the Afterschool Alliance and the Senate Afterschool Caucus, chaired by Senators Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Franken (D-Minn.), along with a host of afterschool stakeholders: After-School All-Stars, American Camps Association, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Save the Children, Communities in Schools, Every Hour Counts, National AfterSchool Association, National League of Cities, National Summer Learning Association and the YMCA of the USA.

Education policy staff for Senators Murkowski and Franken kicked off the event by welcoming fellow staff members and introducing panel moderator Jennifer Peck, president and CEO of the Partnership for Children and Youth based in northern California. Peck set the stage for the event by citing key research and evidence demonstrating the positive impact of Community Learning Centers on student academic outcomes as well as on other indicators of student success. She then introduced the panelists who spoke about their programs, citing research and relating personal stories that demonstrate the profound life-changing effects of quality afterschool and summer learning programs.

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learn more about: 21st CCLC Budget Congress Federal Funding
APR
13
2017

POLICY
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Letters send wave of afterschool support to Capitol Hill

By Jillian Luchner

On April 10, the Afterschool Alliance released a letter signed by 139 national and more than 1,000 state and local organizations, calling on House and Senate appropriators to fund the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative at or above its current level of $1.167 billion and reject President Trump’s call to end federal funding for afterschool programs.

Also on Monday, Representatives Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.) sent a bipartisan Dear Colleague letter signed by 81 members of Congress to House Appropriations Committee leaders Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) with a similar message, calling for “funding of no less than $1.167 billion” for Community Learning Centers. The letter was applauded by afterschool advocates and the Afterschool Alliance.

Inside the sign-on letter

“Quality afterschool and summer learning programs are vital to communities across the nation,” said Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant in releasing the organizational letter. “The idea that the federal government would abandon the students and families that rely on afterschool is unthinkable. President Trump’s misguided proposal to eliminate 21st Century Community Learning Centers has triggered a tidal wave of opposition that’s reflected by the diverse and powerful voices that are calling on Congress to continue—or increase—federal funding for afterschool. This funding directly supports afterschool programs for 1.6 million children across the country.”

National signatories of the letter include youth-serving organizations, education groups, and organizations focused on hunger, fitness, gender equity, health, the arts, and law enforcement, among others. The list was signed by the American Federation of Teachers, American Heart Association, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, FBI National Academies, Girl Scouts of the USA, National Association of State Boards of Education, National School Boards Association, National Education Association, National League of Cities, National PTA, National Rural Education Association, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, STEM Education Coalition, United Way Worldwide, and YMCA of the USA.

The list of state and local organizational signatories is similarly broad, with signers from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The letter is addressed to the chairs and ranking members of key appropriations subcommittees in the House and Senate.

The organizations wrote, “In every state and almost every Congressional district, 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding supports afterschool and summer learning programs that offer locally based school and community solutions that keep children and teenagers safe, inspire young people to learn and support working families.”

Inside the Dear Colleague letter

In the Dear Colleague letter to appropriators in the House, the 81 signing representatives called for at least level funding of 21st Century Community Learning Centers, citing a meta-analysis of 75 separate studies which showed that afterschool students demonstrated improved behavior and performed better academically than students who did not participate in afterschool.

The letter also mentioned the impact programs have on the workforce: “More and more working families rely on 21st Century Community Learning Centers each year to ensure their children are in a safe environment during non-school hours, allowing them to excel in their jobs.”

In the face of a dire threat from the White House, this outpouring of support is encouraging to the afterschool field.

“It’s clear from these two letters that policymakers, educators, parents and a wide variety of organizations, including those focused on health, law enforcement, science education, arts and more, recognize the tremendous value afterschool programs provide,” said Grant. “The president’s proposal to eliminate Community Learning Centers doesn’t have any more traction around the country than it does here in Washington. It is up to Congress to make sure the federal budget reflects this clearly expressed demand for continued, even increased, federal support for afterschool.”

Last year, a similar congressional letter was signed by 40 members. This year’s 81 signatures show a doubling of congressional support for Community Learning Centers, which Trump’s February budget outline put on the chopping block.

What's next?

Members of Congress (find yours here) are on recess and back in their home states and districts. It’s a great time to contact them about the importance of before-school, afterschool, and summer programming to you and you community.

There are lots of ways to get in touch with your representatives and show your support: send your representatives a letter or an email, post on social media, make a phone call, pay a visit to their local office, talk to them at town hall meetings or press events, or invite them to come and see your local program at work. You can also write to your local newspaper or TV station, since lawmakers will be sure to catch up on the local news while at home.

With big budget decisions on the horizon, the voices your representatives hear now and their frequency, diversity, and strength are more critical than ever before. The letters and calls in support of afterschool are streaming in and the strategy is working to influence policymakers. Add your voice and personal story to the chorus. 2017 is an important year for the children, families, and communities who need affordable quality afterschool!

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learn more about: Budget Congress Federal Funding
APR
4
2017

POLICY
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6 steps to get a meeting with your representatives

By Charlotte Steinecke

As the spring recess comes to DC, many senators and members of Congress will soon be back in their home districts. It’s an opportunity for constituents (like you!) to meet with lawmakers face-to-face and directly communicate the importance of afterschool in their community. Meetings with representatives offer a chance at a meaningful conversation about afterschool and studies have shown that site visits are powerful tools to make the case for afterschool.

Make the most of the recess with a phone call to your representative, asking to set up a district office meeting or a site visit so they can see the incredible work being done in your afterschool program.

  1. Establish your goals. Are you interested in inviting your representative to visit your afterschool program, or would you prefer to set up a meeting at the representative’s office to discuss your concerns about President Trump’s proposal to eliminate 21st Century Community Learning Centers? Decide on your strategy.
  2. Find your Senate and House representatives. Click through to your senator or representative’s website to find district office locations in your state—many reps have more than one!
  3. Get in touch. The best way to communicate with your representative is through a phone call.  Phone up the district office nearest to you and make your request. A simple script is all you need: “Hi, my name is [your name] from [your town] and I would like to schedule a meeting with the senator/congressperson to discuss the importance of afterschool funding and share some information about our afterschool program. What is the senator/congressperson’s availability during the spring recess?”
  4. Prepare for the meeting. Brush up on some talking points. If you decide on a site visit, check out our guide to hosting a successful congressional visit to maximize the impact of the experience. If a district office meeting is more suitable, brush up on your representative’s stance on education and afterschool and prepare some clear questions and requests to help keep the conversation on track.
  5. Tell the world. If you do manage to schedule a meeting during the recess, we want to hear how it went! Please share your story through our survey tool and be sure to tweet and post on Facebook about the meeting.
  6. Don’t give up! If your representative’s schedule is too packed to accommodate a visit or meeting in the immediate future, don’t be discouraged! The act of calling your representative sends a powerful message about your concern for and passion about afterschool—as a constituent, this message matters.

Many representatives are very busy during their spring recess, visiting around the state and interacting with constituents—but simply making the phone call is in itself an important way to show where you stand on protecting afterschool resources for kids. Whether you schedule a site visit, attend a district office meeting, or just make a phone call, carving a slice of your representative’s attention for afterschool is one of the best ways to have an impact on their decision-making process.

Looking for more ways to take action? Check out the Take Action to Save Afterschool page for more resources and strategies.

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learn more about: 21st CCLC Advocacy Congress Federal Policy
APR
3
2017

POLICY
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What to expect as the first ESSA state plan deadline approaches

By Jillian Luchner

Since the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was passed in December 2015, a great deal has been done to get ready for implementation and a great deal is left to happen (including appropriations) before the law goes into full effect in the 2017-2018 school year. Eighteen states aim to submit state consolidated plans for the April 3 deadline. You can see those states and learn more about their plans, including the proposed student indicators, on our ESSA state map.

The transition to the new presidential administration has resulted in a few changes to the process, mainly in regards to ESSA regulations and to the state consolidated plan template.

Regulations

On March 27, Trump signed a Congressional Review Act (CRA) legislation rolling back regulations concerning accountability and teacher preparation under ESSA. Those regulations emphasized stakeholder engagement, provided an extended deadline for identification of school support, and set provisions for what types of research could be used in picking a student success and school quality indicator. Individuals supporting the regulations praised the guidelines as offering important clarity and adaptability functions. Others expressed concern that the Department of Education had overreached and been too prescriptive.

MAR
21
2017

POLICY
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Medicaid cuts affect student services in school

By Jillian Luchner

The new administration and Congress are considering changes to current federal health care law, including the components known as the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare,” Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Discussions suggest Medicaid, medical aid to low-income families, may be cut by as much as 25 percent.

School districts use Medicaid funding for a number of student services, such as paying for medical supports required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and providing diagnostic screenings and treatments for issues that directly affect children’s well-being and in-class performance, like vision and hearing concerns, diabetes, and asthma. A recent survey by the School Superintendents Association reports that Medicaid dollars also fund health professionals, provide outreach and coordination of services to students, expand health-related services, and give students with disabilities the technologies they need for an equitable education. A table of state by state expenditures on school based services showcases how important the federal contribution is to schools and students.

Schools that continue to fund these necessary services in the face of cuts would have to find the money to fill gaps somewhere, which would mean less money channeled to other programs for schools and students. Organizations like the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) oppose the cuts and argue that these services for children constitute investments.

“Children with health coverage are more likely to attend school, graduate from high school, go to college, and become healthier adults with higher taxable earnings than uninsured children. Ensuring children and their parents have access to the medically necessary services they need from providers trained to serve children is critical to positive outcomes,” a CDF sign-on letter to Congress on potential health care reform reports. “We urge you to commit to build on the progress made over the past five decades to expand and improve health coverage for children, and, at a minimum, to “do no harm.”

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learn more about: Federal Policy Health and Wellness
MAR
20
2017

POLICY
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What does the president's "skinny budget" mean for afterschool and summer learning?

By Erik Peterson

Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Last week, President Trump and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney released the administration’s fiscal year 2018 budget blueprint. This “skinny budget” outlines the president’s vision for how Congress should spend federal discretionary funds for the upcoming fiscal year that begins October 1, 2017 (FY18).

The budget proposal seeks to eliminate 19 agencies and 60 programs, including the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative, which funds local afterschool programs in all 50 states. That proposal would devastate the 1.6 million children and families that stand to lose access to quality afterschool and summer learning programs.

The Community Learning Centers initiative was reauthorized in December 2015 in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and saw its funding increased in the 2016 bipartisan omnibus spending bill. However, even with this strong support across party lines, more than 11 million students remain unsupervised after school. The parents of almost 20 million students would like their children to be in programs, but programs are unavailable to them, unaffordable or both.

What could an elimination of federal afterschool funding mean for families nationwide? Find out how many thousands of children are currently served by Community Learning Centers in your state—and would be left without an afterschool program if the president’s budget proposal is enacted.

The budget proposal, titled America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again, attempts to justify the proposed elimination of Community Learning Centers by claiming that a lack of evidence exists that links the program to increased student achievement. In fact, over a decade of data and evaluations provide compelling evidence that 21st CCLC afterschool programs do in fact yield positive outcomes for participating children.

What else is at stake?

In addition to Community Learning Centers, a range of other programs that support afterschool and summer learning for young people were also targeted for cuts or outright elimination, including afterschool STEM supports and the Corporation for National and Community Service, which funds local AmeriCorps and Volunteers In Service to America (VISTA) positions, many of which support afterschool programs. Also at risk is the National Endowment for the Arts, which offers grants that can expose students in afterschool programs to arts-rich experiences.

MAR
16
2017

POLICY
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The president says afterschool doesn't work. That's just not true.

By Rachel Clark

Photo by Gage Skidmore.

This morning, President Trump unveiled his budget priorities for 2018. Among those priorities? Singling out afterschool funding for elimination.

The president’s budget justifies this devastating cut by claiming that “the programs lacks [sic] strong evidence of meeting its objectives, such as improving student achievement.” But the evidence is clear: 21st Century Community Learning Centers across the country help our students reach their full potential.

Afterschool works: the evidence

  • In Texas’ 21st CCLC programs, students with both low and high attendance levels were more likely to be promoted to the next grade. The longer students were in the program, the greater the impact reducing disciplinary incidents and school-day absences.
  • A statewide longitudinal evaluation of the After School Safety and Enrichment for Teens (ASSETs) program—California’s high school component of the Community Learning Centers program—found that students participating in the ASSETs program received higher ELA and math assessment scores, and performed better on the ELA and math sections of the California High School Exit Examination than non-participants.
  • A statewide evaluation of Rhode Island’s 21st CCLC programs found that students participating in the program reported that they believed that the program helped them in academic and social/personal skill building.
  • Teachers of students participating in Wisconsin Community Learning Centers programs reported more than two-thirds improved their class participation, 60 percent saw improvements in their motivation to learn and 55 percent improved their behavior in class.

For additional details on these evaluations, download our 21st CCLC Statewide Evaluation Academic Highlights fact sheet.

Afterschool also shows returns on investment with reports from Minnesota, Vermont, Maryland, Oklahoma, and the national level showing that each dollar invested in afterschool saves up to $9 by increasing young people’s learning potential, improving student performance in school, and reducing crime and welfare costs. 

Want more evidence illustrating how Community Learning Centers and afterschool programs in general have a positive impact on student achievement and success? You’re in luck. Check out our 21st CCLC fact sheet; read After School Programs as an Oasis of Hope for Black Parents, a report co-authored by Gerard Robinson, now a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute; or delve into the wealth of information within Expanding Minds and Opportunities: Leveraging the Power of Afterschool and Summer Learning for Student Success, a compendium of studies, reports and commentaries by more than 100 thought leaders.

Communities without Community Learning Centers: the impact

In 2017, more than a million students are served by 21st Century Community Learning Centers. Kids and families in all fifty states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have access to afterschool options that rely on this federal investment—and could be left in the cold if Community Learning Centers are eliminated.

What could this mean for families in your community? Find out how many thousands of children are currently served by Community Learning Centers in your state—and would be left without an afterschool program if the president’s budget proposal is enacted.

How can afterschool supporters fight back?

If enacted, the president’s budget could devastate more than a million families in all parts of the country. In addition to 21st CCLC, a wide range of other supports for families and children could face cuts as well. Fortunately, the battle has just begun: the president’s proposal faces hurdles in Congress, and there’s time for Congress to stand up for afterschool programs.  

To make sure our allies in Congress stand strong for afterschool funding, we need to tell them loud and clear: Americans support afterschool and summer learning programs! Take action now.

Do you represent a local, state or national organization? You can make an even bigger impact by signing our letter of support.

MAR
10
2017

POLICY
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How much of your federal tax dollar goes to education?

By Jillian Luchner

So you give a dollar (well, probably more than one) to the federal government in taxes. How does it get spent? 

It might surprise you to know that only about 2 cents of that dollar goes to education

How does the government arrive at that figure? Many of the expenditures in the federal budget are mandatory, like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and servicing the national debt. The government does not need to make a budget for these items each year, but will spend as much as it needs to meet its obligations under current law. 

The remaining expenditures—including education funding—are known as discretionary spending, which means Congress, through its annual budget and appropriations process, must determine a top level of spending for the year and then let agencies and departments know how much they each will be able to spend. 

Combined, these two spending streams—mandatory and discretionary—make up all government spending. And when you give the government a dollar for this spending, it spends just 2 of your cents on education. Many Americans think this is not enough. If you're one of them, make your voice heard today.

In the 5 Cents Makes Sense Campaign, a group called the Coalition for Education Funding—of which the Afterschool Alliance is a member—is recommending that these 2 cents currently being spent on education increase to a commitment of 5 cents of every federally collected dollar.