With the sequester now in effect, 3,400 AmeriCorps positions are expected to be cut. A recent story in the Baltimore Sun illustrates the concern that many afterschool providers have about the implications these cuts might have for their programs. At the Mother Seton Academy, a school for low-income children in Baltimore, AmeriCorps members serve in a number of vital roles, including helping out the afterschool program. As the school faces budget constraints and teachers are overworked, AmeriCorps members expand the capacity for schools and nonprofits to serve.
During a time of budget cuts, AmeriCorps members make all the difference in overcrowded classrooms, afterschool programs that keep kids safe or in tutoring programs that lower dropout rates. A recent blog post on Service Nation argues that the small living stipend offered to AmeriCorps members costs the country far less than the price of a teenager who drops out of school. With the wide range of services that AmeriCorps members offer, cuts to the program will undoubtedly have a large impact.
AmeriCorps currently engages more than 75,000 men and women at more than 15,000 locations including nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community- and faith-based groups across the country. During their year of service, AmeriCorps members help communities with a wide range of issues including disaster services, economic opportunity, education and healthy futures.
The president recently released his budget request for FY2014 and we wrote about the implications for afterschool in a recent blog post. The budget proposes a sweeping (and unprecedented) reorganization of federal STEM education investments—it consolidates or restructures 114 programs out of the existing 226 federal STEM programs. In the budget proposal, 78 programs are terminated and the funds from these programs ($176 million dollars) are redirected to other agencies, 49 programs are consolidated within agencies and 13 new programs have been proposed.
The $176 million from the eliminated programs would be split as follows:
- $100.3 million to the Department of Education for K-12 education programs
- $51.1 million to the National Science Foundation for undergraduate education and fellowship programs
- $25 million to the Smithsonian Institution for a new STEM engagement initiative
There are several places to get the full details of the president’s budget request for STEM education—the White House R&D budget site and the American Institute of Physics FYI analysis are good places to start.
Today the president released his budget request for the upcoming 2014 fiscal year, which begins this October. With regard to support for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative, the president requested $1.25 billion—reflecting an increase of $100 million from FY2012 levels (pre-sequester levels). As was the case in his budget request last year, the president proposes to radically change 21st CCLC to a competitive grant at the federal level as well as prioritizing 21st CCLC grant funding for new purposes including adding time to the traditional school day or year, and for teacher planning and professional development.
In a challenging budget environment in which many programs face consolidation or elimination, the proposed increase in 21st CCLC in the budget request demonstrates the importance and value of expanded learning opportunities. Unfortunately, in the budget documents and most notably in the budget justification, the president makes the preference for expanded learning time (ELT) clear by indicating that unless ESEA is reauthorized before FY2014 begins, the Administration will request authority to use the $100 million increase for competitive grants to support ELT models.
The Afterschool Alliance supports 21st CCLC funds being directed to high-quality afterschool, before-school and summer learning programs that focus on hands-on, engaged learning that complements and enhances but does not replicate the traditional school day. While not mentioned in the president’s budget, the Afterschool Alliance feels strongly that 21st CCLC funding should continue to support the partnerships between schools and community- and faith-based organizations that help children improve academically, socially and behaviorally while parents are at work. For more information on expanded learning, see our expanded learning resource page.
We know, based on numerous evaluations of 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), that children who participate in these afterschool programs, especially children who regularly attend the programs, show improvement in their academic performance, engagement in school and overall behavior. The recently released report by American Institutes for Research (AIR), Texas 21st Century Community Learning Centers: Year 2 Evaluation Report, adds to the body of evidence that shows afterschool programs are making a positive impact on children’s school day performance.
AIR’s evaluation found that students participating in the Texas 21st CCLC program—also known as Afterschool Centers on Education (ACE)—saw improvements in their Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) reading and math scores, fewer disciplinary incidents than non-participating students, fewer school absences, and an increased likelihood of being promoted to the next grade. One statistic I found to be especially impressive was regardless if a student regularly attended the ACE program, participants in 9th grade through 11th grade were significantly more likely to be promoted to the next grade. The report found that for students who attended the program 30 to 59 days, the likelihood of being promoted to the next grade increased by 79 percent. For students who attended the program 60 days or more, the likelihood of being promoted to the next grade increased by 97 percent.
The above statistic transitions nicely to another key finding of the study: regular attendance in the ACE program matters. Students who attended the ACE program for 60 days or more demonstrated better outcomes than their peers who participated in the program for 30 to 59 days. Students who attended the ACE program more frequently showed greater improvement in their TAKS reading and math scores, lower disciplinary incidents, fewer absences from school and a higher rate of grade promotion. AIR reported that when compared to students who attended the program for 30 to 59 days, the grade promotion rate for students who participated in the ACE program for 60 days or more was 23 percent to 40 percent higher.
For the first time in more than four years, both the Senate and the House have passed budget resolutions. While budget resolutions in Congress don't have the force of law and largely serve as visionary documents or blueprints, they do determine the amount of money the appropriations committees will have to spend on discretionary budget items for the upcoming 2014 fiscal year that begins on October 1.
The budgets that passed are a study in contrasts. The House budget represents a significant cut to non-defense discretionary programs like education funding, while the Senate version has some cuts but also prioritizes some discretionary funding like child care and education, which is offset in part by new revenue. Crucial discretionary investments include things like afterschool and summer learning through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative, child care assistance, special education services and help for low income students through Title I. From 2010 to 2012 discretionary investments for children have already been cut by $2 billion dollars, and they are expected to drop further in 2013.
The House budget extends harmful sequestration cuts that could cut investments to kids by more than $40 billion over 11 years. These cuts fall heavily on investments in education, early childhood and children’s housing. It also cuts non-defense discretionary spending by an additional $650 billion over 10 years by shifting all the scheduled cuts in defense spending onto non-defense areas. Applied proportionally, these additional cuts could cost kids another $72 billion. Finally, the House version cuts all non-defense discretionary investments by nearly $1 trillion.
The Senate budget resolution eliminates sequestration and restores all cuts currently in effect. This alone would restore more than $4 billion in investments for children and youth for Fiscal Year 2013 including restoring afterschool supports to the 56,000 children slated to lose those programs this fall. The Senate version further lowers non-defense discretionary spending caps by $150 billion. Applying this reduction proportionally, this would result in a $17 billion reduction in funding for children’s initiatives. However, the budget proposal emphasizes the importance of early education, child care, child nutrition, as well as other areas suggesting the intent to protect critical investments in children. During the budget debate on the Senate side, Sen. Boxer sent a strong signal on the importance of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative by authoring an amendment in support of this valuable afterschool and summer learning program. While the amendment was not voted upon due to procedural issues with the budget process, the Senate remains in strong support of afterschool programs, with Sens. Murray and Harkin expressing their support for the amendment as well.
The president is expected to release his budget on April 8.