Why speaking up on the President’s proposed budget matters — an afterschool perspective


April 10, 2018

Editor’s note: The Coalition on Human Needs is participating in the Children’s Blog Carnival, hosted and sponsored by the Children’s Leadership Council.  Today’s post is authored by Eric Peterson, Vice President, Policy, at the Afterschool Alliance. Previous carnival blogs have focused on  the plight of Puerto Rican children in the wake of Hurricane Maria; “grandfamilies,” grandparents or other relatives raising children; the recent March for Our Lives; the importance of dental health for children; the link between quality child care and brain development in infants; and the effect of President Trump’s immigration policy on children.

By Eric Peterson
In mid-February the administration released its fiscal year 2019 full budget proposal just days after Congress approved topline spending levels for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. The full budget represents the president’s vision for how Congress should spend federal funds for the upcoming fiscal year that begins October 1, 2018 (FY19).

Echoing the FY18 budget proposal released last year, the administration again proposes the elimination of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative, which funds local afterschool and summer learning programs in all 50 states. Elimination of these funds for local programs would devastate the 1.7 million children and families who stand to lose access to programs as a result.

The budget proposal comes in stark contrast to the strong bipartisan support for afterschool displayed in Congress. Just in 2015, the Community Learning Centers initiative was reauthorized in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). And in 2017, bipartisan support in Congress in the FY17 omnibus spending bill increased funding by $25 million for Community Learning Centers to meet the large need for these programs from working parents, students and communities across the country. And in late March Congress finally passed a bipartisan FY18 Omnibus spending bill with a $20 million increase to 21st CCLC.

The budget proposal 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, more than a decade of data and evaluations provide compelling evidence that Community Learning Center afterschool programs yield positive outcomes for participating children in academics, behavior, school day attendance, and more. Last fall yet another study was released by the nonpartisan Rand Corporation, concluding afterschool and summer learning programs provide measurable benefits to youth and families on outcomes directly related to program content and demonstrably improve academic outcomes. Afterschool programs are getting young people engaged in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), providing nutritious meals and access to physical activity, and helping children find their spark and passions: be it cooking, robotics, or filmmaking. While the effectiveness of Community Learning Centers funding is clear, the impact of program elimination is clearly devastating, with thousands of students from pre-K to 12th grade in all 50 states at risk of losing access to programming.

The administration continues to rely on outdated, hand-selected data that ignores more than a decade of evidence from researchers showing that afterschool works. Furthermore, with federal funding serving less than 2 million students, and the parents of more than 19 million students wanting access to programs, there is a need for additional support to programs, not less.

The Department of Education’s most recent report on Community Learning Centers finds that half of the students regularly participating in Community Learning Center programs improved their math and reading grades, two-thirds improved their homework and class participation, and more than half improved their classroom behavior. One out of four students moved from “not proficient” to “proficient” or better in both math and reading test scores. Considering that Community Learning Centers programs work with some of the most disadvantaged children and youth, many of whom would otherwise be unsupervised after school, we should be celebrating these victories and expanding access to local afterschool and summer learning programs.

The  budget request goes to Congress, where budget and appropriations deliberations for FY18 just wrapped up and FY19 appropriations deliberations have kicked off. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has already testified in support of the president’s education budget before the House and will soon do so in front of the Senate Labor, Education, HHS Appropriations Subcommittees. In the meantime, supporters of afterschool from across the nation and political spectrum will be making the case that #AfterschoolWorks. What could the elimination of federal afterschool funding mean for families nationwide? Check this interactive map to see 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 administration’s s budget proposal is enacted.

To make sure our allies in Congress stand strong for afterschool funding, we need to continue to tell them loud and clear: Americans support afterschool and summer learning programs! Add your voice and take action now to send a clear message of support for afterschool funding for 2019, and for years to come.

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