Fear that after-school funding will die ebbed a bit as the U.S. Senate education committee affirmed its support for a major federal grant program.
The committee approved an amendment reauthorizing the 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which provides after-school care to 1.6 million low-income children.
The program had been dropped initially from the bill being created in the Senate to replace No Child Left Behind.
“The after-school amendment had broad support within the committee,” said chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., at the hearing.
Legislators on both sides of the aisle agreed on the importance of high-quality before-school, after-school and summer learning programs, said Jodi Grant, executive director of the Afterschool Alliance, in a statement.
“Senators rightly concluded that funding for after school is essential, and came together to preserve it,” Grant said.
The alliance is a nonprofit that works to ensure children’s access to affordable after-school programs.
The 21st Century funding is by no means guaranteed, however. The bill must still pass the Senate.
A House version did not include 21st Century funding, although that bill was pulled from the floor earlier this year.
If House and Senate legislation ends up differing on the issue, a compromise would be decided in a House-Senate conference committee, Grant said.
Both houses of Congress are seeking to reauthorize the No Child law, the most recent version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, to change its widely disliked testing and school accountability provisions.
After-school advocates led by the Afterschool Alliance had mobilized to urge legislators to preserve the 21st Century program.
“This is a huge win,” said Katie Landes, director of the Georgia Statewide Afterschool Network.
The amendment to preserve the program was offered by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, along with Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Al Franken, D-Minn.; Bill Cassidy, R-La.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
A new provision would also allow 21st Century funds to be used to expand the school day to provide child care while parents are working and kids would otherwise be unsupervised, according to Grant.