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Opinion / Staff Leadership and Management

Ed Reform: A Turning Point for Afterschool?

21st CCLC funding

It’s been a hot, hot summer here on the East Coast. But the sweltering temperature is nothing compared to the heated debate going on all around the country as the Administration and Congress take up serious education reform efforts. A lot of big issues are on the table, including major shifts in funding for afterschool programs as well as what happens after school and in the summer.

At the center of the debate is the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), a law that sets policy for much of our school-age education system. The bill will not just impact our programs and jobs. It will affect our children for generations to come. (Consider how much influence the last iteration of the bill, the famous No Child Left Behind Act, has had.)

What happens to afterschool and summer programs, especially 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) grants, is up in the air.

21st CCLC, the only dedicated funding source for afterschool and summer programs, supports programs serving more than 1 million children nationwide. Just last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a measure to divert 21st CCLC funding away from afterschool. The bill would allow districts to instead use the funds to extend the school day. While some expanded learning efforts show great promise, taking funds from afterschool for these efforts is not the answer. A decade’s worth of research proves that afterschool programs help our kids succeed-especially the low income youth that need help most.

Congress needs to know that afterschool programs and the 21st CCLC program are a worthwhile investment. They keep children safe, inspire them to learn and help working families.

We need to raise our voices like never before if we want to see quality afterschool programs thrive, and if we believe that the best afterschool practices can, and should, inform our nation’s education policy. Here’s what you can do:

–Take a moment to call, write or email your Representative and Senators. Share the impact your program has had in your community. Use program evaluations and anecdotes showing how your afterschool program is changing lives for the better.

–Invite a Member of Congress or their staff to visit your program this summer or fall and let them see your program at work firsthand. See our Site Visit tools.

–This October, take part in Lights On Afterschool, and invite elected officials to your celebration of afterschool.

–Add your story and evaluations to the Make It Stick website – a great resource of blog posts and video showcasing the best of afterschool.

–Follow afterschool policy news in our Policy & Action Center.

Author: Ursula Helminski

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