Education Week - May 16, 2018 - 18
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 17
sure whether or not we'll be sticking
And it's disheartening to hear
that leaders don't value the benefits that her program provides-
including tutoring, snacks, and enrichment activities-to about 100
Native American students, all of
whom qualify for free or reducedprice lunch.
"I do think it's a little bit discouraging because we work really hard, and
we try our best, and we see on a daily
basis what an after-school program
is doing for our students and how it's
making a difference for them," she
said. "People think they're paying for
another type of day care. It's more
This isn't the first time that the program has come under threat. In 2015,
when Congress was working on the
Every Student Succeeds Act, House
GOP lawmakers sought to consolidate
the after-school grants into a broader,
more flexible funding stream. But the
Senate rejected that move.
And in 2004, the George W. Bush
administration moved to slash the
program's budget by 40 percent, to
$600 million. Congress refused to go
along with that plan, too. In general,
financing for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program
has hovered at a little more than
$1 billion for about a decade.
Impact on Poverty
The federal government picks up
just 11 percent of the tab for afterschool programs overall. But those
dollars are more likely to help children in poverty, who may derive the
biggest benefit from after-school
academic help and enrichment, experts say.
"The nice thing about 21st Century
is it provides high-quality after-care
for parents who can't afford it," said
Jodi Grant, the executive director of
the Afterschool Alliance. "In this day
and age, the homework, the tutoring,
the mentoring are essential skills.
Wealthy parents pay through the nose
for this stuff."
Forty-five percent of children in
after-school programs in general
qualified for free or reduced-price
lunch, according to an analysis by the
Afterschool Alliance using 2014 data.
But 67 percent of the students served
by the 21st Century program were
eligible for those services, the Alliance
Participation in a high-quality after-school program can improve children's academics, social-emotional
skills, and even attendance, said
Heather Weiss, the co-director of the
Global Family Research Project, a
research, advocacy, and practice organization in Boston.
"People argue that the gap in
achievement between lower-income
and more economically advantaged
[children] is in part based on their
differential access to after-school and
summer learning programs," she said.
State and Local Funding
State dollars make up a relatively small portion of the overall
funding picture for after school, a
little more than 3 percent overall,
according to the Afterschool Alliance's analysis. At least half a
dozen states provided some funding for after school in 2017, according to the National Conference of
State Legislatures, a research organization in Denver. California
is the standout. It dedicates some
$600 million to after-school programs, mostly focused on children
in poverty. But when states face a
funding squeeze, after-school pro-
Julie Denesha for Education Week
Fear Aid Uncertainty
Second grader Pamela Brownfield,
8, left, and kindergartener Kyleigh
Chapman-Burris, 6, work on
Mother's Day cards at an
after-school program at Jefferson
Elementary School in Iola, Kansas.
grams can go by the wayside.
Both New Jersey and Washington
state directed money to after school
back in 2008, before the recession
hit. But both states jettisoned the
programs when money got tight,
said Ashley Wallace, a program
director with NCSL's education
More recently, Wyoming, which
is now facing a budget crunch, decided to allow school districts to
use $11.5 million initially provided
for the Summer Bridges summer
and after-school program as a block
grant. That means the funds can go
for other purposes, such as general
Cities and towns make up an
even smaller piece of the funding
pie, about 2.4 percent, according to
the Afterschool Alliance's analysis.
Many local leaders want to invest
in after school, but the programs
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compete with police, fire, library,
housing, and other city services,
said Bela Shah Spooner, the manager for expanded learning at the
Institute for Youth Education and
Families at the National League of
Still, some cities have been able
to find funding for the programs, including Denver; Fort Worth, Texas;
Nashville, Tenn.; and San Francisco.
Denver, for instance, has been using
taxes from marijuana sales to help
cover the costs.
After-school programs also benefit
from the support of businesses, philanthropies, religious institutions,
and other sources.
Still, the federal funding is still key
for many programs that serve poor
children. And even a 21st Century
Community Learning Centers grant
is no guarantee of longevity.
Some states offer programs the
opportunity to recompete for their
five-year grants. But not every state
runs a competition every year. Some
programs are directed to find other
sources of funding over the life of
the grant, but five years isn't always
enough time to ensure sustainability. Programs have had to cut way
back on their services or have disappeared entirely when their grants
That's what happened to the program at Echo Mountain Elementary
School in Phoenix. Its grant expired,
and the state didn't run another grant
cycle. The program had to decrease its
hours and services, said Tami Taylor,
the former site coordinator.
"I don't think that five years is
horribly short, but it does go quick.
There's so many things on everyone's
plate," said Taylor, who now heads up
another after-school program that
also receives 21st Century money,
at nearby Campo Bello Elementary.
"We have so little money in Arizona"
Most schools and districts don't
retain the full-time grant writers
needed to help the programs make
up for the loss of federal funds, she
Debate Over Efficacy
18 | EDUCATION WEEK | May 16, 2018 | www.edweek.org
Part of the reason the funding for
after-school programs remain tenuous: Policymakers question whether
the programs provide any academic
benefit. The Trump administration
said in budget documents that it
wants to zero out the grants because "this program lacks strong
evidence of meeting its objectives,
such as improving student achievement, in part because just two-fifths
of program participants attend on a
Mark Dynarski, who conducted a
study of the 21st Century program for
the research firm Mathematica in the
early 2000s, said his review showed it
doesn't get the academic outcomes for
children that proponents claim.
"There are very formidable ideological forces pushing in favor of the
program," said Dynarksi, now a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "When I hear the
evidence that they cite, I often find it
to be highly selective."
But 21st Century could hold other
benefits for communities, Dynarksi
said, like providing a safe place for
children to go while their parents are
working. That's just not the outcome
the federal government touts.
Weiss of the Global Family Research
Project, however, argues these reports
were done many years ago and offer
only a snapshot of the program in its
early years. After-school programs,
including those that receive 21st Century Community Learning Center
funds, have gotten a lot more sophisticated since then, she said.
Weiss also contends that the program's shaky financial situation
makes it harder for local leaders to
plan for the future and get even better results.
Henry, the SAFE BASE director,
agrees with that sentiment. She's
lost some good support staff over
the years, including a future Kansas teacher of the year, because she
couldn't offer the stability employees
"If we didn't have to worry all the
time about funding, how could we
expend that energy?" she wondered.
"We could have this great plan going
Coverage of after-school learning
opportunities is supported in part by a
grant from the Charles Stewart Mott
Foundation. Education Week retains sole
editorial control over the content of this