After-school and summer programs will not only retain a separate funding stream, they will also get a slight boost in dollars under the new federal education bill and budget.
At one point during the negotiations that resulted in the Every Student Succeeds Act, 21st Century Community Learning Centers were going to be part of a block grant with several other programs, pitting the expanded learning programs against popular programs such as Math & Science Partnerships and Advanced Placement courses. The U.S. Senate had also proposed a cut in funds for the learning centers.
Instead, the programs will get almost $1.17 billion in dedicated funds, which includes a $15 million increase. About 10 percent of the budgeted funds will likely come to California because of the large size of the state’s student population, said Jessica Gunderson, policy director for the Partnership for Children and Youth, an advocacy group based in Oakland.
But the slight increase will not do much to meet the demand, Gunderson said. Currently, less than 20 percent of programs that apply get funded, she said.
“The fact that the funding stream stayed separate and about the same through ESSA is a bigger statement,” she said.
The funds can be used to provide tutoring, field trips and other enrichment activities after school, in the summer, or as part of an expanded school day for children from low-income families.
The law also gives priority to districts that partner with community groups, which Gunderson applauds.
“Schools will never have enough resources in and of themselves to overcome the barriers of (student) poverty without working with community partners,” she said.
The small increase in federal funding comes at a time when California has been reluctant to raise per-student funding for the state’s $550 million After School Education and Safety Program. With no increase since the program’s inception in 2006 and cities bumping up the minimum wage, programs have been forced to cut back to make ends meet.