|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.
As Congress’ Memorial Day recess approaches, your afterschool program has an excellent opportunity to organize a site visit and show your representatives the important work your program is doing. Site visits are a fantastic way for new and established programs alike to build up relationships with elected officials, and for elected officials to see firsthand that afterschool works.
To kick start your site visit planning, here are some top tools and strategies for maximizing your site visit’s impact.
- Check out the Afterschool for All Challenge toolkit. You’ll find a general overview of how to host a successful site visit, some do’s and don’ts for a great event, and a sample invitation for you to send to your member of Congress. Our outreach strategies page also has a five-step plan to conducting a great visit.
- Explore a toolkit from a statewide afterschool network. The Indiana Afterschool Network’s toolkit contains tips, techniques, and templates to make a site visit a success. Read through the planning guide, use the event checklist, and learn how to pitch your site visit to local media to boost your event’s profile.
- Watch a webinar. While you’re developing your strategy, it’s helpful to hear firsthand accounts from other programs and afterschool advocates about their experiences conducting site visits. Check out our webinar on the impact of the president’s budget proposal, with tips from a program director on the best ways to maximize your site visit’s impact.
- Do your research. Know who your elected officials are and what subjects are most important to them. Having insight into a policy maker’s platform makes it much easier to design a visit that will persuade them: if a policy maker has repeatedly expressed concern about childhood obesity, highlighting the work your program does to encourage healthy eating and physical activity will resonate!
- Find your champions. Identify the students, parents, program staff, school officials, and other individuals who are best equipped to represent your program. Ask them if they’d be interested in attending the visit, give them some background on the official who will be present, show them a basic schedule, and encourage them to prepare for a conversation.
- Showcase your best programming. Select the programming you want to highlight during the visit—STEM learning sessions and other academic enrichment are often the top picks for visits. Include the policy maker in snack time and let them interact with your student representatives before facilitating a discussion between parent representatives and the policy maker. The opportunity to let an elected official talk with their constituents about the importance of afterschool is not to be missed!
- Follow up after the visit. The visit may be over, but the conversation has just begun! Be sure to send a thank-you message after the visit and stay in touch with your representative. Having a strong relationship with your elected officials is key to the long-term wellness of your afterschool program.
Finally, here’s some advice from Kim Templeman, a former Afterschool Ambassador and elementary school principal who hosted a successful site visit at her afterschool program:
“Be persistent. Don’t feel like you are imposing on the official’s time—they are there to represent you, and their job is to understand and get involved in what you do. … Be prepared to talk specifics. Don’t just say ‘we still need your funding.’ Explain to the official how you budget your program and show the official what funds support different activities. That way, the official can understand the reality of an afterschool program’s needs, and what your program needs most.”
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.
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!
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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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?”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
By Luci Manning
Almost 130 afterschool programs in the Houston area may lose federal funding under President Trump’s proposed budget calling for the elimination of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative. More than 103,000 students across Texas participate in afterschool programs and their participation results in demonstrable academic benefits like increased attendance and improved test scores. “For a lot of these kids, we feel like we’re the difference,” Communities in Schools senior project director Kam Marvel told the Houston Chronicle. “Offering 15 additional hours of education a week improves the chances of passing the test and increases exposure to certified teachers.”
Some 1,500 students in Lake area schools take part in afterschool programs like Afterschool Ambassador Colleen Abbott’s LEAP program (Learning Enriched Afterschool Program), engaging in STEM learning, physical education, and homework help. Despite the improved test scores, grades, and attendance records of participating students, LEAP and other programs may lose funding under the president’s proposed federal budget. Abbott believes these programs are essential not only for students but also for working parents. “The families we support are hardworking individuals who strive to provide for their kids in order to give their children opportunities to succeed,” she told the Lake News.
President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to afterschool programs would be devastating for students and parents in New Jersey, according to advocates and program operators. “Losing this would be a devastating blow to our students and families,” Wildwood supervisor of curriculum Josepha Penrose told the Press of Atlantic City. “This does allow more parents to work knowing their children have a safe place to go after school.” Programs like the Boys & Girls Club serve 26,000 students in 57 school districts across the state and give students a safe, engaging place to spend the hours after school ends and before their parents get home from work.
In a letter to the Argus Leader, Afterschool Ambassador Heather DeWit explains why afterschool programs are critical for her children and other students throughout South Dakota: “The caring adults in after school and summer programs have made a positive difference for both my children. They have had opportunities to make a difference in their world, been supported by positive role models and learned new things, all while I was busy at work... The economic toll we would face in South Dakota. if working parents lost this critical support, the risk factors our children would face, and the incredible benefits our children would lose, make this an obvious area where cuts would be tragic.”
A new national Quinnipiac University poll released late last week finds that American voters overwhelmingly oppose the proposed federal budget cuts to afterschool and summer learning programs. With 83 percent of voters saying that cutting funding for afterschool and summer programs is a bad idea, Tim Mallory, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll includes afterschool as one of the programs where, “it’s a stern ‘hands off’ from voters,” when it comes to cutting funding.
Funding for afterschool and summer learning programs has bipartisan support, with majorities from all parties—97 percent of Democrats, 87 percent of Independents, and 63 percent of Republicans—saying that cutting funding is a bad idea. It also has widespread support across communities, with 78 percent of voters in rural communities and 87 percent of voters in cities agreeing that it is a bad idea.
This poll reinforces previous findings on the broad support for public funding of afterschool and summer learning programs. Our 2014 America After 3PM national household survey found that 84 percent of parents were in support of public funding for afterschool programs, including 91 percent of Democrat, 86 percent of Independent, and 80 percent of Republican parents.
If you also believe that federal funding for afterschool and summer learning programs is critical and you want to show your support, you can add your voice to the chorus of voices standing up and speaking out for afterschool.
By Luci Manning
Low-income students in Michigan would lose out on important educational and social experiences under President Trump’s proposed budget, which eliminates federal funding for afterschool programs. The budget cuts would result in a loss of more than $120 million for teacher training and afterschool programs in the state. “These cuts would have a devastating impact on the lives of our students, the families we support and the communities we live in,” Afterschool Ambassador Maria Mitter told MLive. Mitter supervises afterschool programs at 20 sites through Eastern Michigan University, which has received $2.7 million in federal funds.
Afterschool Ambassador Paula Adams explains how the loss of federal funding for afterschool programs would hurt Hawaii students in a letter to the editor in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser: “They’ll be latchkey kids, on their own, on the streets, some getting involved in risky behaviors, and all losing the opportunity to be constructively engaged and learning under the watchful eye of caring adults. It’s up to Congress to make sure the president doesn’t succeed in killing federal afterschool funding – and up to all of us to make sure our members of Congress know how much we value afterschool programs.”
Many Birmingham parents don’t know how they would care for their children if federal funding were eliminated for afterschool programs, as proposed in President Trump’s budget. “Those families depend on the 21st Century [Community Learning Centers] grant money that funds the afterschool programs,” Afterschool Ambassador and Glen Iris Elementary School principal Michael Wilson told WBRC. “[These] 120 kids, rather than stay here where it’s affordable and safe and nurturing, might be on the street in the afternoon.” Programs in the area provide a safe space for students to spend time after school ends and a chance for them to explore subjects that they may not have time for during the school day, like coding.
President Trump’s proposed budget would affect some 5,000 Granite School District students who benefit from 19 afterschool programs supported by the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative. “It’s devastating,” Afterschool Ambassador Margaret Peterson, executive director of the Community Education Partnership of West Valley City, told KUTV. “How can you abandon our children? They’re the future of America.” Peterson elaborated that taking away funding for afterschool programs will mean that students will miss out on valuable educational opportunities; studies show that students who participate in these programs exhibit significant academic improvement.
|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.