Mar 15

More than 600 organizations send a message to Congress: Afterschool works

On March 13, the Afterschool Alliance released a letter signed by 80 national and more than 550 state and local organizations representing all 50 states and Washington, D.C., calling on House and Senate appropriators to fund the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative at $1.3 billion and reject calls to end federal funding for afterschool programs.

The letter explains the important role that Community Learning Centers’ play in thousands of local communities in all 50 states:

While reflecting the needs of local communities, these programs expand student access to activities and services designed to reinforce and complement the regular academic program, such as: hands on learning, physical activity, workforce development opportunities including gaining knowledge and skills in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) including computer science, that underpin most modern jobs, drug and violence prevention programs, counseling programs, the arts, and more. Students are learning to code, preparing themselves for in-demand jobs, the military, and the new economy, and learning to make the right choices during the ongoing opioid epidemic. Additionally, families of children served have access to their own programs in literacy and related educational development.

The letter also goes on to describe the evidence base for the program and outlines the key outcomes:

Students who regularly participate in 21st Century Community Learning Centers improve their school attendance, class participation and behavior, homework completion, and reading and math achievement scores and grades. The demand for afterschool programs continues to grow in communities of all types, including rural, urban and suburban communities. Nationally, for every student in a program, two more are waiting to get in.

National signatories of the letter include youth-serving organizations, education groups, and organizations focused on hunger, STEM, fitness, gender equity, health, the arts, and law enforcement, among others. Among the national groups signing the letter were the After-School All-Stars, American Federation of Teachers, American Heart Association, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Campfire National HQ, Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), Council of Large Public Housing Authorities , Engineering for Kids, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, National Recreation and Park Association, National School Boards Association, National League of Cities, National Urban League, Rural School and Community Trust, STEM Education Coalition, United Way Worldwide, U.S. Soccer Foundation, and the YMCA of the USA.

The list of state and local organizational signatories is similarly broad, with signers from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The letter is addressed to the chairs and ranking members of key appropriations subcommittees in the House and Senate.

The organizations wrote, “In every state and almost every Congressional district, 21st Century Community Learning Center funding supports afterschool and summer learning programs that offer locally based school and community solutions that keep children and teenagers safe offline and online, inspire young people to learn and grow, and give parents peace of mind.”

What’s next?

Members of Congress (find yours here) will be in recess the week of March 26 and back in their home states and districts. It’s a great time to contact them about the importance of before-school, afterschool, and summer programming to you and you community.

There are lots of ways to get in touch with your representatives and show your support: send your representatives a letter or an email, post on social media, make a phone call, pay a visit to their local office, talk to them at town hall meetings or press events, or invite them to come and see your local program at work. You can also write to your local newspaper or TV station, since lawmakers will be sure to catch up on the local news while at home.

With big budget decisions on the horizon, the voices your representatives hear now and their frequency, diversity, and strength are more critical than ever before. The letters and calls in support of afterschool are streaming in and the strategy is working to influence policymakers. Add your voice and personal story to the chorus. 2018 is an important year for the children, families, and communities who need affordable quality afterschool!