Jul 20

Afterschool shines in ESSA implementation hearing

On July 18, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce Education (HEW) convened a hearing entitled “ESSA Implementation: Exploring State and Local Reform Efforts.” The hearing focused on what states have done so far to develop their consolidated state accountability plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and whether the federal government and the Department of Education (ED) need to do more or less to assist in their development and review.

A recurring theme of the hearing was the pending appropriations debate that would potentially shortchange a number of ESSA and education related programs. The hearing also included a robust conversation on supporting students through afterschool and summer learning programs, and Dr. Gail Pletnick, president of the State Superintendents Association (AASA), emphasized the point that afterschool programs are key investments in supporting student attendance and achievement and engaging students and parents in education.

Locally-driven solutions to education issues

Opening the hearing, Education Committee Chairwoman Foxx (R-N.C.) called ESSA a milestone for K-12 policy, as it establishes a proper balance of autonomy and accountability for states. She walked through the main changes of the law and noted that ESSA strips powers from the Secretary of Education to ensure there no longer is a top down approach to federal K-12 education policy.

“This law has the ability to empower state and local leaders to change K-12 education for the better, and that is why it is of utmost importance to this committee,” Foxx concluded.

Ranking Member Scott (D-Va.) spent his opening statement making clear that he believes ED has a role in reviewing and approving state plans according to the law and its requirements concerning equity. He went on to slam both the president’s budget proposal and the draft House Labor, Health and Human Services and Education FY 2018 Appropriations bill, both of which propose eliminating Title II funding for teacher and school leader professional development and undercut funding for Title I and Title IV Part B (21st CCLC) of ESSA.

“How effective can [ESSA] implementation be, without funding?” Scott asked the committee.

Afterschool fits with ESSA for student success

During the hearing, House Afterschool Caucus co-chair Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Penn.) highlighted how afterschool programs, like the SHINE afterschool program in his district in northeast Pennsylvania, are contributing to student success, and questioned how state ESSA plans can incorporate afterschool opportunities. 

“We know that chronic absenteeism negatively affects student success, and that this has led some states to propose absenteeism as an additional accountability measure in their state ESSA plans,” Barletta said. “We also know there is evidence that quality afterschool and summer learning programs are cost-effective strategies in increasing student attendance at all grade levels. I’ve seen this first-hand through an afterschool organization in my district – the SHINE program.”

Barletta questioned Dr. Gail Pletnick, superintendent of Dysart Unified School District in Surprise, Arizona, about how state ESSA plans help leverage Title I and Title IV dollars to encourage student engagement through afterschool and summer learning opportunities. Pletnick said that her district utilizes Title I funds to support afterschool programs.

“With our underserved populations especially, having those afterschool opportunities serves many purposes, but certainly engages students in their learning,” Pletnick said. “We have opportunities to have coding, to have STEM – those really critical skills that students enjoy being a part of. What we have also seen through those programs is increased parent involvement because they are able to engage with their students in those activities. Those types of programs are having a positive impact academically.”

Written witness testimony and an archived webcast of the hearing can be accessed here.

Central to implementation of ESSA is funding for all the titles and programs authorized by the bill. The full House Appropriations Committee is met this week to mark up the FY2018 education-spending bill, the next step in process appropriations process.

Reach out to your members of Congress today in support of funding for afterschool and summer learning programs.