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Federal After-School Program Not Restored in Bipartisan ESEA Bill

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The $1.15 billion federal after-school funding program was not restored in the widely anticipated bipartisan agreement to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) released Tuesday afternoon.

As written, the compromise bill, known as the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, eliminates the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) program—the only federal funding source dedicated to after-school programs—and rolls it into a single block grant along with all other non-academic programs and services in Title IV of ESEA.

CCLC provides funding for more than 1.6 million students in about 11,000 after-school programs across the country. 

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, which oversees ESEA reauthorization, proposed the block grant earlier this year, saying that states should get to decide how to spend their federal education funds. You can read more about that here in Education Week.

Erik Peterson, vice president of policy for the Washington-based Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit organization that advocates for after-school programming, said CCLC suporters weren't suprised.

"That's more or less what we expected," said Peterson, adding that it was their understanding that the compromise bill would focus on disagreements in Title I and Title IX of the education bill and not address the other sections.

"[Sen. Alexander's] preference is to use the markup process next week to have senators" bring amendments forward to restore the program, Peterson said.   

He said that effort is being led by two HELP committee members, Senators Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.  

The new bipartisan agreement is scheduled to be taken up by the committee on Tuesday, April 14.

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