|Photo by Gage Skidmore.
Last week, President Trump and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney released the administration’s fiscal year 2018 budget blueprint. This “skinny budget” outlines the president’s vision for how Congress should spend federal discretionary funds for the upcoming fiscal year that begins October 1, 2017 (FY18).
The budget proposal seeks to eliminate 19 agencies and 60 programs, including the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative, which funds local afterschool programs in all 50 states. That proposal would devastate the 1.6 million children and families that stand to lose access to quality afterschool and summer learning programs.
The Community Learning Centers initiative was reauthorized in December 2015 in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and saw its funding increased in the 2016 bipartisan omnibus spending bill. However, even with this strong support across party lines, more than 11 million students remain unsupervised after school. The parents of almost 20 million students would like their children to be in programs, but programs are unavailable to them, unaffordable or both.
What could an elimination of federal afterschool funding mean for families nationwide? Find out how many thousands of children are currently served by Community Learning Centers in your state—and would be left without an afterschool program if the president’s budget proposal is enacted.
The budget proposal, titled America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again, attempts to justify the proposed elimination of Community Learning Centers by claiming that a lack of evidence exists that links the program to increased student achievement. In fact, over a decade of data and evaluations provide compelling evidence that 21st CCLC afterschool programs do in fact yield positive outcomes for participating children.
What else is at stake?
In addition to Community Learning Centers, a range of other programs that support afterschool and summer learning for young people were also targeted for cuts or outright elimination, including afterschool STEM supports and the Corporation for National and Community Service, which funds local AmeriCorps and Volunteers In Service to America (VISTA) positions, many of which support afterschool programs. Also at risk is the National Endowment for the Arts, which offers grants that can expose students in afterschool programs to arts-rich experiences.
The president’s budget request now goes to Congress, where budget and appropriations deliberations for FY18 are underway, even though Congress must still finish the FY17 spending process by April 28 when the current continuing resolution expires.
Congressional Republicans and Democrats’ response to the budget has been negative to tepid. Congressional champions of afterschool like Representatives Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Franken (D-Minn.) and many more are already making the case for continued support of Community Learning Center funding.
OMB Director Mulvaney has pointed out that the proposal released last week is a spending outline preceding the full budget to be produced in May, but House and Senate Appropriations Committees are already scheduling hearings with the Cabinet members who head each federal agency to hear details of the president’s budget request.
What can afterschool supporters do?
The response by the afterschool field and the public to the proposed elimination of 21st CCLC has been loud and swift. In the hours and days following the release of the budget, advocates have sent nearly 25,000 emails to Congress in support of Community Learning Centers. National media outlets from the Washington Post and CNN to Time magazine and ABC News have covered the proposed cut to afterschool funding. Local media from Utah, Alabama, Wyoming and more have shared the overwhelming evidence that afterschool programs support students.
To make sure our allies in Congress stand strong for afterschool funding, we need to continue to tell them loud and clear: Americans support afterschool and summer learning programs! Add your voice and take action now. Additionally, if you represent a local, state or national organization you can make an even bigger impact by signing our letter of support.