After-School Cuts on the Table in Congress
Federal funding for after-school and expanded-learning programs are in play again during these dizzying final weeks before Congress breaks for summer recess.
The 21st Century Community Learning Center grants (CCLC), the main source of federal funding for after-school programs, would either be cut, eliminated, remain at its current level or possibly—but improbably—increased, under four bills in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
As Education Week's Lauren Camera reported yesterday, the Senate is expected to vote as early as Wednesday of this week on its version of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), known as the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015.
It essentially "punts on funding issues, leaving it completely up to the annual appropriations process," said Joel Packer, a consultant with the Washington-based Raben Group and the executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, an advocacy group, which created the following graph of CCLC funding.
On the House side, members narrowly approved a Republican-backed reauthorization of ESEA last week, known as the Student Success Act, which calls for eliminating CCLC.
Jodi Grant, executive director of the Afterschool Alliance, an advocacy group based in Washington, issued a statement saying the House bill "would be a huge and costly mistake" that "would roll back nearly 20 years of bipartisan support for, and investment in, the after-school, before-school and summer-learning programs that keep kids safe, inspire them to learn, and help working families."
The $1.15 billion program serves about 1.7 million predominantly low-income children and teens.
The program doesn't fare much better in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Its Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill would cut discretionary funding for the U.S. Department of Education by $1.36 billion, including $117 million from CCLC.
Grant said about 117,000 students could be shut out of their before- or after-school program if that cut goes through.
The House appropriations bill, on the other hand, maintains the current level of CCLC funding. However, in a blow to advocates of expanded-learning time, the bill prohibits any of the money from being used for expanded learning, such as lengthening the school day or year.
The House bill would also zero out another source of expanded learning time funds by eliminating School Improvement Grants (SIG), which were designed to help turn around low-income, low-performing schools. It also reduces the overall education department budget by $2.77 billion, more than twice the cuts proposed by the Senate.
SIG survives the Senate Appropriations Committee spending plan, but takes a $56 million dollar cut. Both bills wipe out the federal Full Service Community Schools Program, a competitive grant program that provides up to $2.5 million over five years for schools in underserved neighborhoods to develop partnerships with community organizations to provide a range of support services for students and their families, from academics and enrichment activities to health care and job training.
Packer described the Senate bill as "less bad for education" than the House bill because it eliminates fewer programs and instead reduces most of them. But he added that it's doubtful any of them will be the final word on education funding. For one thing, President Obama has already threatened to veto the House reauthorization should it pass. Additionally, he said to expect an amendment to restore Full Service Community Schools.
"At the end of the day, these are not going to be the bills [enacted]" said Packer. But don't expect any windfalls either. "The best case is that you're not cut."