House Subcommittee Funds Federal After-school Program Despite Trump’s Call to Kill It

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Chris Neitzey breathed a sigh of relief this week.

He and other advocates of after-school and summer learning programs have been on edge ever since President Donald Trump proposed eliminating federal funding for those programs in his “skinny budget” in March.

Neitzey said his sigh of relief was a short one, however.

On Wednesday, a subcommittee of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved $1 billion for 21st Century Community Learning Centers, the federal after-school program that serves 1.6 million children across the nation.

The funding, however, was $191 million short of last year’s.

Neitzey is policy director for the New York State Network for Youth Success, a network of after-school and expanded learning programs in the state.

The cut will mean that about 191,000 children across the country will lose services, according to the Afterschool Alliance.

“It’s going to have an effect in every state,” Neitzey said.

New York state is just starting another round of 21st Century grants to schools and community organizations, he said. Some existing after-school programs could see their promised grant for next year fall short, he said.

“A  lot of the parents and families are becoming more aware of where the funding is coming from.” he said. They hear about potential cuts and it leaves them uncertain, he said.

Federal funding for out-of-school time programs has been swinging in the wind. First, the president proposed killing all funding, but the 2017 omnibus funding bill that Congress passed in May raised 21st Century funding by $25 million. Now the figure is down again. And it’s not final, since the full House Appropriations committee will have to approve the budget and then the House will have to vote on it. The Senate will also pass a budget resolution and both House and Senate will have to agree on a final budget.

Erik Peterson, senior vice president for policy at the Afterschool Alliance, said Congress might not be able to pass a budget by the end of September, when the fiscal year ends. He also decried the reduction in 21st Century funds.

“Some kids will not have a program to go to,” he said.

“That’s not acceptable to us and the local communities,” Peterson said. “We’ll continue to make the case” for more funding, along with the lawyers and mayors and pediatricians in local communities who see the needs of kids firsthand.

The National League of Cities is among organizations pushing for full funding of the 21st Century program.

After-school programs as important to cities, said Bela Shah Spooner, National League of Cities’ program manager for after-school and expanded learning. Mayors say after-school programs make neighborhoods safer, support working families and help in workforce development.

Police chiefs, for example, know that the hours from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. is when youth crime happens, she said.

In addition, “Young people are gaining skills in after-school programs that put them on a path to success,” she said.

Marty Blank is director of the Coalition for Community Schools, an alliance of national, state and local organizations that has its headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“After-school programs are a core component of community schools,” Blank said. “Families are struggling in this economy. They need a safe place for their children to be — a place where they can learn and grow.”