Most after-school and summer learning programs are not significantly impacted right now by the partial government shutdown, but there is concern they could be if the closure continues.
“We have not heard from any programs that it’s currently affecting them,” said Katie Landes, director of the Georgia Statewide Afterschool Network.
Nationally, the Afterschool Alliance has been monitoring programs and state after-school networks.
“The main federal funding streams are not impacted,” said Erik Peterson, vice president of policy for the alliance.
These funds, the 21st Century initiative and Title I funding, come through the U.S. Department of Education, which continues to operate during the shutdown.
However, after-school providers are worried about funding for school lunches, which comes through the Department of Agriculture.
“Right now our largest concern is if and when USDA funding runs out,” Landes said.
The Department of Agriculture announced that money is available for school lunches and breakfasts well into March.
After that point, schools might have to dig into their own budgets to provide meals, using fund earmarked for after-school and summer learning programs, said Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate executive director for policy and advocacy at the AASA, The School Superintendents Association.
School districts weren’t expecting the shutdown to last a long time, she said.
“They had no idea it would go past 21 days,” Ng said. The shutdown, in its 27th day today, has lasted longer than any previous one.
School districts will draw from budget areas that seem to have less direct impact on student learning, depending on their priorities, she said.
“No superintendent is going to deny a child lunch,” she told Education Week. “What it means is that the superintendent is going to find money elsewhere, which means something else gets cut: Maybe money for an afterschool program, maybe money for a summer program.”
A North Carolina school district has already announced it will shrink school lunches in order to preserve funds. Vance County Schools is cutting out fresh produce, ice cream and bottled juices and water, according to the Charlotte Observer newspaper.
A few activities for after-school programs are affected by the shutdown, Peterson said. The NASA website is closed and most employees are furloughed, affecting webinars that some programs use, he said.
And the National Science Foundation, which provides funding to a handful of programs, mostly for evaluation and curriculum development, has issued a stop work order for those grants, he said.
On the other hand, AmeriCorps funding has already been appropriated, supporting the service members who work in many after-school programs.
“That’s the good news,” Peterson said. “The bad news is that the partial shutdown is contributing to the overall sense of instability.”
To assist families, some after-school programs serving federal employees are giving them extra time to pay.