Nearly $60M in Federal Funding Restored for OST Programs

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WASHINGTON -- Lawmakers have restored nearly $60 million in federal funding for out-of-school-time (OST) programs serving U.S. schoolchildren.

Congress’s decision to restore the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative funds, which had been cut as a result of the sequester, drew praise from the executive director of the Washington-based Afterschool Alliance, Jodi Grant.

The increase will mean about 60,000 more kids can attend before-school, after-school and summer programs, Grant told Youth Today.

“That’s about 60,000 more kids that are going to be supervised … as a result, so it’s a big deal,” Grant said. “It means a lot to those 60,000 students and their families.”

The 21st CCLC initiative, which targets high-poverty schools, is the only federal funding stream that goes exclusively to out-of-school-time programs.

The restoration of the $60 million, approved with bipartisan support, brings 21st CCLC funding to $1.149 billion now in place for the remainder of fiscal year 2014.

The 21st CCLC funding supports programs for 1.1 million children, many of whom would otherwise be unsupervised when schools are closed.

Grant said most of the programs the funding supports are comprehensive programs with an average of six partners working together. Along with the schools, the partners can include community- and faith-based organizations.

Many programs provide homework help, mentoring, physical activities, arts like theater and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.

For older kids, some programs provide internships and apprenticeships.

Some students eat meals and get health care at programs, which can also provide service learning opportunities.

But many more students still need access to OST programs.

The Afterschool Alliance says more than 15 million schoolchildren – more than one in four kids in the United States – are unsupervised after the school day ends, and most of them live in poverty.

“We need to be doing more partly because we want to keep kids safe and give them a place where they can be when their parents are working,” Grant said.

And, she said, “We know that in a high-quality after-school program, we’re providing the kids the tools and resources that are going to help them succeed professionally. So we very much see it as an equity and as an economic future-workforce development program that’s essential to these kids.”

On school days, the Afterschool Alliance says, the hours between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. are the peak hours for juvenile crime and experimentation with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and sex.

And, according to the alliance, teens who don’t participate in afterschool programs are three times more likely to use marijuana or other drugs than those who participate in the programs and nearly three times more likely to skip classes than those who participate in the programs.