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Trump Budget Would Again Ax After-school Programs Despite Strong Congressional Support

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Two months after Congress approved $1.25 billion for after-school funding, the White House has again called for a complete kill-off of the program.

After-school programs have support across both parties in Congress, but every year since taking office President Donald Trump has proposed cutting the money. 

He did it again on Monday in a $4.8 trillion budget proposal that would also cut Medicaid, food stamps and affordable housing assistance.

Congress gave a seal of approval to the 21st Century Community Learning Centers in December when it passed a spending bill funding the government for most of 2020. That spending bill included $28 million more for 21st Century after-school programs than in the previous year.

The 21st Century initiative in the U.S. Department of Education directs money to states that then grant it to programs serving 1.7 million children across the nation, mostly in low-income communities.

Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., has been a long-time supporter of after-school funding.

“Afterschool programs improve educational outcomes, provide safe places for young people, and help working families make ends meet,” she said in an email on Monday, “It is outrageous that President Trump is trying to take these services away from families across the country.”

His budget proposal signals a “disconnect” with voters, she said in a statement.

Lowey relaunched the Afterschool Caucus in December in the House of Representatives. She co-chairs it with Doug Young, R-Alaska, who said that as a former schoolteacher he believes it is important for children to have safe and educational after-school programs available.

In the Senate, the Afterschool Caucus also has bipartisan support. On Monday, Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., also a member of the caucus supporting 4-H, cautioned that the White House proposal was just that — a proposal.

“The president’s budget request represents the administration’s recommendations on how to allocate federal dollars, but ultimately Congress has the final say,”  Boozman said in an email.

Federal expenditures for after-school programs have been criticized by some fiscal conservatives.

“The goal of conservative policymakers should be to significantly narrow, rather than broaden, Washington’s reach in education policy,” wrote Lindsey M. Burke of the Heritage Foundation in a commentary after Trump’s State of the Union speech.

Last year, she defended the proposal to cut after-school funding, saying there’s no evidence the program has improved learning among the children it serves.

However, more than 60 after-school programs met the standards of impact under the Every Student Succeeds Act, wrote Nancy Deutsch, director of Youth-Nex, the University of Virginia Center to Promote Effective Youth Development, in Fortune magazine last year.

The White House is ignoring decades of research showing how after-school programs help students succeed, Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant said in a statement.

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