After-school funding is in real danger. Here are two ways to stand up for kids.
Shannon Stagman is Senior Program Director of Evaluation Services at ExpandED Schools.
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When I woke up Thursday morning to news that the White House’s proposed federal budget had been released, I braced myself for some unpleasant news. I had already heard that I should expect major cuts to most departments, and as I scrolled down the comprehensive Washington Post breakdown of the cuts, I was hoping to see that the Education budget was relatively intact. Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed.
The administration has proposed $9.2 billion in cuts to the Education Department, with $3.7 billion coming from grants for aid to low-income students, teacher training and after-school, expanded learning and summer programs. Of particular relevance to me and my work here at ExpandED Schools, the budget proposal completely defunds 21st Century Community Learning Centers. Here in New York, we’ve been anticipating the imminent announcement of 21st CCLC Round 7 awards. What does this new federal budget proposal mean for us?
The short answer is that we don’t know yet. Shortly after the budget was released, the Afterschool Alliance released a statement expressing their concern over the proposal, and detailing the ways in which such a funding cut would hurt working families across the country. In New York State, over 87,000 children would lose access to 21st CCLC services that not only help them succeed in school, but also give them safe and healthy environments to be in the after-school hours while their parents or caretakers work. Advocacy groups have reached out to work with lawmakers from both political parties to prevent this proposed cut.
The budget needs bipartisan support to pass, and there is hope that the vast support for after-school will prevent full defunding. That said, if the full cut of 21st CCLC stands for FY 18, all funding for those programs could cease as of summer 2018. (Separate FY 17 cuts could affect program services as early as this July.)
There is a real danger that 21st Century will sustain deep cuts. In the last couple of years, there have been relatively small proposed cuts to 21st CCLC that haven’t passed. Even severe and deeply destabilizing cuts may look reasonable in this climate, and it’s hard to say how big they could become.
What can we do here in New York to prepare for the possibility of cuts to federal after-school funding?
- Keep pressure on federal lawmakers to pay attention to and fully fund what is a relatively small federal program with enormous impacts for children and families throughout the country.
- Urge our state government to make after-school a priority. Governor Cuomo has proposed allocating $35 million of the state budget to the Empire State After-School program, which would add 22,000 after-school slots across the state, and also create 2,000 new jobs for frontline staff. The State Assembly has included the program in their budget, and Network for Youth Success has urged the State Senate to do the same. While this program would not make up for all of the potential losses from 21st CCLC, it could certainly help to meet widespread demand for after-school.
There will be many more questions as this situation develops, and here at ExpandED Schools we’ll be keeping a close eye on it. In the meantime, we’re urging our partners and community to contact your representatives and ask them to stand up for kids and education equity by keeping 21st CCLC at its current funding level.