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Trump's Budget Would Cut After-School Funding for Disadvantaged Students

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President Trump's $4.1 trillion budget proposal for fiscal year 2018, which was officially released this morning, calls for eliminating the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program.

When Trump's preliminary budget plan came out in March, after-school advocates zeroed in on that provision and tried to get the administration to reconsider to no avail.

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers program funds before- and after-school programs as well as summer programs in low-income communities. Eliminating it from the budget would save $1.2 billion.

Trump's budget proposal criticizes the program for "not achieving its goal of helping students, particularly those who attend low-performing schools, meet challenging state academic standards." The proposal notes that between 2013 and 2015 on average "less than 20 percent of program participants improved from not proficient to proficient or above on state assessments in reading and mathematics." It also dings the program for having low attendance rates.

 Support for the Program

But supporters of the program say it plays a critical role in communities with working parents who need a safe place for their children to be during the after-school hours.

In a press release, the head of Afterschool Alliance, Jodi Grant, said the proposed cuts, "would be a stunning blow to working families, who count on after-school programs to provide enriching, educational opportunities for their children during the hours after the school day ends and before parents get home from work."

Others in the after-school arena have also come out in force against these proposed cuts including, Ron Ottinger, the head of STEM Next, and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In April, more than 80 members of Congress from both parties also reached out to the heads of a key appropriations subcommittee in the House asking that funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program be maintained. That same month, more than 1,400 organizations signed a letter calling on Congress to maintain funding for the program at its current level.

Last week, the Partnership for Children and Youth (PCY), a California nonprofit that advocates for after-school and summer programs, issued a statement that summer learning was being threatened at both the federal and state levels, and Trump's proposed cuts "would undermine the work that's taken place over the last 20 years to help communities close the learning gap for children of color, children from under-resourced communities, and working-class families."

But a recent Government Accountability Office report may bolster the administration's argument about 21st Century Community Learning Centers. It questioned how much the Department of Education knows about the effectiveness of the program.

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