Coalition Urges Lawmakers to Maintain 21st Century Community Funding

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WASHINGTON — A coalition of hundreds of local, state and national groups is urging federal lawmakers to preserve and strengthen the 21st Century Community Learning Center initiative in the reauthorization of a major education law.

The more than 650 groups said in a letter to House and Senate leaders that the CCLC initiative “has resulted in wide-ranging positive impacts for students and families by leveraging school and community partnerships to help millions of low-income children become successful in school and in life.”

The initiative is a grant program that provides funding for after-school care to 1.6 million low-income children. It is the only federal funding source dedicated solely to after-school, before-school and summer learning programs.

The push from the groups comes as lawmakers prepare to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization (S 1177, HR 5). A conference committee is expected to begin negotiations this fall, but its members have yet to be named.

The education law, currently known as No Child Left Behind, has many moving parts, and the debate is expected to be difficult. Lawmakers will have to come to an agreement on contentious issues including accountability measurements, Title I grants, teacher effectiveness and the funding structure for grant programs.

[Related: Rewriting Education Law: Senate Replaces ‘No Child Left Behind’]

After-school groups say their top priority is protecting CCLC.

The Senate version of the legislation would maintain designated funding for the initiative, while the House version would not.

Interested groups lobbied hard to maintain the CCLC funding in the Senate bill and urged lawmakers not to abandon the program during the conference.

“Now is the time to step up support for students during the time when they are not supported by school or family, the hours after the traditional school days ends when 11.3 million children are unsupervised and juvenile crime and other inappropriate activities peak,” the groups wrote in the letter spearheaded by the Afterschool Alliance.

The Senate version also would add provisions that emphasize better data sharing between schools and community-based organizations, broaden the activities the funding can be used for and allow CCLC funds to be used for certain “after-school like” activities in some expanded learning programs, the Alliance said.

The groups that signed the letter represent all 50 states and the District of Columbia. They include Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of the USA, National Association of Elementary School Principals, Save the Children, the United Way and the YMCA of the USA.

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