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House Committee Addresses After-School Programs

On March 11, the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing on “After-School Programs: How the Bush Administration’s Budget Impacts Children and Families.”

Chair Dale Kildee (D-MI), said, “Last year, Congress increased funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers [CCLC] the federally supported after-school program by $100 million. This year, those centers will provide services to more than 1.5 million children and their families. And they’re doing a good job…It is beyond me, then, why the president would propose not only to slash after-school funding by 26 percent or $281 million, but also to turn the program into a voucher program. By the administration’s own calculations, its proposal could result in more than one million fewer students receiving services. I had hoped that the president’s final education budget would be an improvement over his previous ones, but it is hard to see anything positive about increases for Title I [of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) (P.L. 107-110)] and special education that don’t even keep up with inflation, or cuts to drug and violence prevention and after-school programs, eliminating education technology and career and technical education, and divisive private school and after-school voucher proposals.”

Ranking Member Michael Castle (R-DE) said, “[F]ederal funding for 21st CCLC programs was never intended to merely keep students off the streets. Instead, the program is intended to provide meaningful educational opportunities. Although there are many positive outcomes associated with CCLCs, U.S. Department of Education reports, which evaluated CCLC after-school programs from 2001 and 2004, did not find significant improvements in academic achievement. Additionally, a third report from the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences found that, generally, the program had no impact on reading test scores or grades…Additionally, before considering the administration’s proposal to transform the program into an after-school and summer school scholarship program, it is important that we consider ways in which the program can be improved to continue serving all deserving children while making strides towards closing the achievement gap. I believe strongly in the principles of No Child Left Behind and the programs which fall under NCLB.”

Michael Carroll, chief of police of the West Goshen Township Police Department (Pa.), said, “When the school bell rings, millions of children and teens head to the street with neither constructive activities nor supervision by caring, responsible adults and violent juvenile crime soars. Research from across the country consistently shows that on school days, the hours from 3 to 6 pm are also the peak hours when children are most likely to become victims of crime, be in an automobile accident, smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs. Fortunately, quality after-school programs can cut crime and transform the ‘prime time for juvenile crime’ into hours of academic enrichment, constructive recreation, and community service…Turning children away from involvement in crime takes well-designed programs with adequate numbers of caring, well-trained staff. In addition, to have maximum crime-prevention results, programs must target kids in the most at-risk areas, as the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program does…Despite the clear evidence that quality after-school programs can prevent crime and improve other youth outcomes, there remains a dramatic shortage of after-school programs.” He added, “Although these programs are available to all grade levels, elementary school students are the group most frequently targeted for services by the centers. About half of the centers serve elementary school students exclusively, and at least two thirds of all centers serve some elementary students. Only 20 percent of the centers exclusively target middle school students and only five percent of centers exclusively target high school students. We recommend that new, increased resources be designated for after-school [programs] for at-risk middle and high school students who now experience the greatest unmet need and are at greatest risk of perpetrating, or being victims of, crime.”

Theresa Kough, after-school program co-coordinator for Delaware’s Department of Education (DDOE), said, “As the 21st CCLC state program officer, I take very seriously the monitoring, funding, and continuous improvement of our 25 programs operating in 55 sites throughout the state. The DDOE views the 21st CCLC grant program as a tool to provide students with rich learning experiences that will directly affect their academic achievement. DDOE is working hard…to ensure that center personnel are addressing its program goals of improving students’ performance on statewide assessments and offering services designed to reinforce and complement traditional academic programs.” Ms. Kough continued, “Twenty-first CCLC is a relatively new program. It will celebrate its tenth birthday this year. The program, as it exists today, has only been in operation since 2002. It has made great strides. I believe its main strength lies in building partnerships between the school and community-based organizations. This partnership has resulted in stronger and better programs than either the schools or agencies could create on their own. We know that all students need to participate in vibrant and exciting after-school programming to learn to connect with the world beyond school. Currently, over 14 million students leave school at 3:00 pm or earlier, with nowhere to go. The administration’s current proposal to convert the 21st CCLC program to a voucher system may force programs to close, which would result in more students with no place to go after-school. In addition, the move to a voucher system would undermine existing public, private, community, and faith-based partnerships that are working well. I think the 21st CCLC program, as it now exists, has earned the right to continue. It offers the best chance to offer seamless services to our children.”

Priscilla Little, associate director of the Harvard Family Research Project, said, “Even though the 21st CCLC program began in the 20th century, it was aptly named as a program that could support the development of the skills necessary for young people to support America’s effort to stay competitive in a 21st century global economy. Since its inception ten years ago, we have learned a lot about the enormous potential after-school programs have to support a range of positive learning and developmental outcomes, outcomes that can help young people succeed in school and in their community, and prepare them for post secondary success, including attending college, getting competitive wage jobs, and being engaged community and family members…[T]o succeed in a competitive global economy young people…need to become effective communicators, know how to develop and sustain relationships, solve problems, and have a strong sense of self. Turning to the research, there is solid evidence that 21st CCLC and other after-school programs can support a range of behavioral outcomes, including social and communication skills; relationships with others; self-confidence; development of initiative; and feelings and attitudes toward self and school.” Ms. Little added, “After-school programs are viewed as one of many places that can tackle the growing problem of obesity among our nation’s children and youth. Startling new statistics reveal that, by 2010, almost 50 percent of America’s children will be obese; furthermore, almost two-thirds of American children get little or no physical activity…Similar to the impact on academic achievement test scores, it takes more than a few hours a week of after-school participation to move the needle on significant markers of change. But after-school programs can contribute to healthy lifestyles and increased knowledge about nutrition and exercise.”

LaDonna Gamble, interim project director of Flint Community Schools’ Bridges to the Future Program (MI), also testified.

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