Tuesday, December 22, 2020

What Changes in Washington D.C. Could Mean for Afterschool

Source: www.theconversation.com

By Sam Piha

The Afterschool Alliance is working to ensure that all children, regardless of income or geographic area, have access to quality afterschool programs. Their efforts are aimed at securing resources to expand programming and help programs be the best they can be. They focus foremost on underserved and disadvantaged children and communities. Every year the Afterschool Alliance releases an afterschool report entitled, America After 3pm. You can read the full report here and the executive summary here.  

We asked Erik Peterson, Senior Vice President of Policy of Afterschool Alliance, what changes in Washington in the new year could mean for the afterschool field. Jodi Grant, Executive Director, added her thoughts on the final question. Below are their answers.

Erik Peterson, Sr. Vice 
President of Policy
Q: We have a new presidential administration coming in 2021. What can we expect in terms of support for afterschool at the federal level?

A: While it is always hard to predict the future, the Biden campaign platform included a number of education priorities that would directly affect and support access to and quality of afterschool programs if they come to fruition, including:

  • Tripling support for Title I programs under ESEA: The Biden campaign notes a $23 billion funding gap between white and non-white districts as well as gaps between high-income and low-income communities across the United States. Title I programs are provided to schools based on their population of low-income students to help school improvement and student achievement. Afterschool programs are an allowable use and have an evidence base on moving the needle on indicators of student success. A number of districts and schools use some of these funds to support afterschool and summer programs, addressing needs such as transportation, staffing, and more. The platform mentions that Title I funds should allow communities to direct funding resources to meet the specific local needs of their area.
  • Increased support for Community Schools: This section begins, “When parents are working hard to make ends meet, it can be difficult, if not impossible, for them to navigate various family needs like after-school care.” It goes on to envision increased access to community schools serving as community hubs created with broad stakeholder input and wraparound services for 300,000 additional students.
President-elect Biden also has a “caregiving” platform focusing on the needs of parents trying to balance their jobs and their families, especially in light of the COVID crisis, but extending before the pandemic as well. This plan includes:
  • Improved access to afterschool, weekend, and summer care for school-aged children: Importantly, this section mentions “expanding the 21st Century Community Learning Centers that provide critical enrichment to school age children.” In addition, this section of the caregiving platform loops back to other listed priorities and initiatives and includes a combination of increased investments in the child care and development block grant (CCDBG), the child care tax credit mentioned below for youth, birth to age 13, and investments in community schools.
  • Increased Child Care Tax Credits: The plan outlines a refundable credit of up to $8,000 for one child and $16,000 for multiple children which would pay for as much as half (depending on income levels) of a family’s child care expenditures for low-income and middle class families making $400,000 and under.
  • Other areas: Early childhood, universal pre-kindergarten, military family care and family care for college students, child care staff compensation, benefits, professional development, and infrastructure.

Source: www.eenews.net

Vice President Harris also comes to her historic position with a history of supporting certain education goals in her role as a U.S. Senator. Last year Harris introduced the Family Friendly Schools Act. The Act had a number of education-related components but most importantly proposed to “authorize an additional $1.3 billion for 21st Century Community Learning Centers to allow up to 1.8 million more children to access summer programming.

It is encouraging to see both Biden and Harris explicitly recognizing the importance of increased funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

Q: Should we be thinking about how we all can be involved in advocacy in 2021? 

A: Absolutely, advocacy was critical to keeping federal support for afterschool from being eliminated under the Trump Administration and it will continue to be critical moving forward. There will be much work to do and many priorities for the new Administration and the new 117th Congress, therefore it will be vital to tell the story of out of school time, and the important role programs play in communities nationwide – both during and after the pandemic. In particular we need to share the innovations we have seen this year around community learning hubs and centers made possible by robust community-local government- school partnerships which present an opportunity even after the pandemic to provide new learning opportunities to young people. 

Q: If we have a republican controlled Senate in 2021, what can we expect and should we be thinking about expanding our advocacy efforts?

A: Based on what we have seen in the past several years, a Republican controlled Senate will likely focus on reigning in spending on domestic programs and priorities like education and afterschool. That combined with a closer margin in the House means we must double our efforts at outreach to elected officials and their staff – inviting them to virtual (or eventually in-person) site visits; reaching out as parents, students, and programs providers; and communicating why investments in quality afterschool and summer learning programs are so important for children, young people, families, and communities.

Q: If we have a democratic- led Senate in 2021, what can we expect and should we be thinking about expanding our advocacy efforts?

A: While a Democratic led Senate could be more willing to make investments in education, advocacy will still be important. A narrow margin of control, constraints around the federal deficit, and a wide range of priorities coming out of the pandemic will combine to make telling the out of school time story just as important in this scenario as well.

Jodi Grant, ED, 
Afterschool Alliance
"Our strategy shouldn’t change regardless of who wins the Senate – the strength of afterschool programs remains in the fact that they make a difference in all communities, for all kids whether they be red, blue, or purple. Our goal will be to keep shining a light on the extraordinary difference these programs are making so that we can continue to build support – especially during the pandemic and recovery when afterschool allies are needed more than ever to support our children and families." - Jodi Grant, Executive Director

Erik Peterson joined the Afterschool Alliance in July 2009 and coordinates and advances the Afterschool Alliance’s policy efforts at the federal level by helping develop policy goals and implementing strategies that advance access to quality afterschool programs for all. Erik works to build and strengthen relationships with policy makers and allied organizations to increase public support and funding for quality before-school, afterschool and summer learning programs. 

Jodi Grant has been Executive Director of the Afterschool Alliance since 2005. She oversees all aspects of the Afterschool Alliance’s work – setting its goals and strategies for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, working with the field to help programs tap into federal funding streams, and supervising research to help national, state and local afterschool advocates and providers support, create and expand quality afterschool programs.

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