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New Legislation Proposed for Expanded and Out-of-School Learning

According to the Afterschool Alliance, positive news is in store for after-school and out-of-school programs in several states—Illinois, Texas, and Massachusetts—which recently passed bills aimed at creating, maintaining, or increasing funding for extended learning opportunities.

In Illinois, the state legislature passed and Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law a new $10 million funding stream to support after-school programs, as well as increased and maintained existing out-of-school dollars, according to the Alliance. Texas has created its first expanded learning task force, which will examine how the state can better serve students in out-of-school programs and through extended days. And in Massachusetts, funding was increased for a state after-school grant for local programs by 15 percent, the first increase since 2009.

On the federal side, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization bill proposed by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who chairs the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, was passed in committee last week. It addresses the ongoing debate over 21st Century Community Learning Center dollars, as I have written about before.

Expanded learning time advocates such as the National Center on Time & Learning seem pleased with the new bill, which would give states flexibility to use 21st CCLC dollars to expand learning or lengthen the school day, a school turnaround effort that continues to grow traction nationally.

However, as mentioned before, many after-school advocates like the alliance remain concerned that the limited amount of money in the 21st CCLC grant program will mean programs are hurt when more grantee contenders compete for funds.

Still, both groups seem to agree that the bill's provisions that make grantees, LEAs, and organizations more accountable, such as requiring community partnerships, are a good thing.

These thoughts were also echoed in a forum I attended last week on Capitol Hill that addressed how federal policy can influence or make expanded learning programs stronger from the perspective of an intermediary organization, district administrator, and researcher.

All three speakers mentioned the value of working with community organizations to enhance services, cut costs, and improve outcomes for students. Another main point was that federal and state requirements could and should be improved on data-sharing between partners and schools.

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