Wednesday, October 6, 2010

OST Funding Threatens to Divide a Community

In 2009, as part of a coalition for afterschool policy convened by the Afterschool Alliance, Higher Achievement signed onto a letter to President Barack Obama, asking for his support for an increase of $250 million in FY 2011 for funding of out-of-school time programs through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. Now, almost a year later, the requested $250 million dollar increase has leveled out at $100 million, and the out-of-school time community is divided on how the allotment of these new funds will affect overall programming of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC). 21st CCLC are currently designated to support after-school, before-school and summer learning programs, but with revisions from the current administration, many are concerned that experimentation with an extended learning day will over shadow the aforementioned program components.

Considering all of this, Higher Achievement is hopeful that three key components will remain at the top of the discussion:

There is a clear need. According to the Afterschool Alliance report “America After 3pm,” 15 million children are left unsupervised after school. To ensure that young people are safe and engaged in meaningful activities after school, it is critical that communities are able to offer more opportunities that engage youth outside of the traditional school day and year. Higher Achievement calls on policymakers to carry out the Senate HELP committee’s proposed $100 million increase for the 21st CCLC funding stream to ensure greater access to programs and activities for youth.

High quality is essential. Opportunities provided to young people should be of the highest quality, built upon research-based best practices for serving youth, including research on serving particular populations, age ranges, program field characteristics, and more. Poor and minority students living in the most vulnerable communities particularly need rigorous programs of the highest quality to ensure they have the same chances for success as their more privileged peers. High quality programs also incorporate best practices around staff development and training and other internal organizational best practices.

It takes a community. Legislation should encourage collaboration between schools/districts and community-based providers, as they combine to meet the year-round needs of youth both in and out of school. Collaboration must be grounded in aligned common goals and mutual accountability to be effective.

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