Advocates for after-school programs will be holding a national summit in Los Angeles on Tuesday to build opposition to a plan to eliminate $1.15 billion in federal funding for after-school and summer programs.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, has proposed ending 21st Century Community Learning Centers grants to states. He is the chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions. The committee is revising the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), often referred to as No Child Left Behind, which includes the community learning center funding.
The committee’s revision is expected to be presented to the Senate on April 13, said Jodi Grant, executive director of the Afterschool Alliance, an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., which is taking part in the summit.
A similar proposal to eliminate the funding by the House of Representatives was pulled at the end of last month, Grant said.
Unlike most states, California also has a well-funded state program, the After School Education and Safety Program, which provides $550 million each year. But that funding is limited to K-9 students in after-school programs. It cannot be used for older students or for summer programs.
California schools still rely on the federal dollars – more than $127 million in 2014-15 – to provide before- and after-school and summer programs.
Across the country, about 1.6 million students participate in programs funded by the community center grants each year, according to the Afterschool Alliance. In a recent report, the alliance found that 19.4 million children nationwide would participate in these programs if funding were available. The estimate is based on a survey of parents across the country in spring 2014.
California’s statewide after-school program survived budget cuts during the recession because a voter initiative created the program and allocated $550 million in a separate funding stream from K-12 education. It is just as important that federal after-school funding remain separate from other education funding, said Bonnie Reiss, global director with the University of Southern California Schwarzenegger Institute.
“If the funds are rolled into a pot of money for other things, districts have so many competing demands – pay increases, smaller class sizes – after-school funding would take a hit,” Reiss said.
The Schwarzenegger Institute is hosting the summit on Tuesday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Speakers include former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Superintendent Michael Hanson of Fresno Unified and Superintendent Chris Steinhauser of Long Beach Unified.