With more than half the calendar year behind us and only two months left in the 2017 federal fiscal year, now is a great time to pause and reflect on the ongoing quest to protect and grow federal funding for afterschool and summer learning programs. Much has happened since the March 16 release of the Trump administration’s skinny budget which proposed to eliminate federal 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) funding for almost 1.6 million students—yet there is still a long way to go.
The administration’s FY2018 skinny budget released in mid-March, and the subsequent full budget proposal released in late-May, both proposed to eliminate $1.1 billion in Community Learning Centers funding that allows local afterschool and summer learning providers in all 50 states to offer quality enrichment and academic programming to 1.6 million students in grades K through 12. The Administration justified the proposed elimination of the program by pointing to data from a 12 year old report with flawed methodology that questioned the effectiveness of the program.
The response to the proposed elimination was swift:
- Since March 1: We’ve made approximately 71,500 points of contact with Congress — including calls, emails, and letters
- March 2017: Multiple summaries of recent Community Learning Centers afterschool evaluations were published, showing widespread positive outcomes in classroom attendance, student behavior, grades and academics, and engagement.
- Since April 6: At dozens of site visits around the country, members of Congress or their staff were able to meet students, parents, and program staff and see first-hand the impact of Community Learning Centers funded programs
- April 10: Bipartisan Dear Colleague Letters circulate in Congress and gain signatures from more than 80 Representatives and more than 30 Senators. On the same day, an organizational support letter signed by 1,400 groups and a second support letter signed by 130 public health organizations are released.
- June 6: During the Afterschool for All Challenge, advocates held more than 250 in-person meetings on Capitol Hill with policymakers.
- June 28: Multiple briefings are held for Congressional staff, featuring program providers, local elected officials, students and more.
A tremendous thank you to all of the parents, advocates, friends of afterschool, national afterschool and summer learning providers, and supporters that joined together to reach out directly and through stakeholders to provide research and examples of the effectiveness of Community Learning Centers-funded programs. We’ve also seen a flood of media outreach in national and local press.
So… where do we go from here?
First, the good news: In the middle of the push to respond to the proposed budget elimination for FY2018, Congress had to finish their overdue work on the FY2017 (current) federal fiscal year spending package. Despite the strong possibility that Community Learning Centers funding would be slashed in the FY2017 Omnibus spending bill, it passed in early May with a $25 million increase in federal funding for afterschool and summer learning programs.
While that turnaround does not impact the FY2018 budget process, it does represent the overwhelming show of support for these effective funds and a true understanding on the part of Congressional Appropriators that Community Learning Centers funding benefits students, families, and communities. The increase was a vote of confidence in Community Learning Centers, but hard work remains to ensure full support for FY2018.
But as a reminder of the work left to do, in July the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee voted along party lines to cut Community Learning Centers funding by $192 million, a level that could leave 192,000 students nationwide without programs. While the program was not eliminated in the House bill, a cut of this size would decimate the private and local support that federal funds leverage, and hurt hundreds of communities.
The Senate has yet to act on their FY2018 spending bill and are expected to do so in September. The final appropriations process is far from settled and could include a continuing resolution and omnibus spending bill or even a federal government shutdown.
While much uncertainty remains, we know we must continue reaching out to Congress and making the case that Community Learning Centers are an effective means of supporting student success.
What can you do next?
With Congress out for the August recess this month, now is a great time to education your elected officials on the power of afterschool. As an individual:
- Send an email to your members of Congress, state, or local elected officials, urging them to supper afterschool
- Attend a town hall and speak to the value of afterschool
- Join us for a Day of Action on September 27
- Find an event to attend for Lights On Afterschool, the only national rally for afterschool, on October 26
As a program director or staff: