Schwarzenegger Advocates for Afterschool Funding

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Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a longtime advocate for after-school education, has called on Congress to cancel plans to cut federal funding specifically targeted for after-school programs.

This week, at a national gathering in Los Angeles, the former governor will join leaders in education, business, and law enforcement to insist that any bill passed include after-school funding, says Christine Armario of ABCNews. A bill that has been proposed that would eliminate what is known as 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) as well as 68 additional programs and, instead, create a flexibility grant that would allow states to choose how funds would be used.

“I’m always worried when someone says, ‘It will give them more flexibility,’” Schwarzenegger said Monday in an interview with The Associated Press. “I think after-school money is for after-school programs.”

In recent years, after school programs have taken center stage because an increasing number of students come from families where both parents work outside the home. Only 4 in 10 children in 1965 had more than one parent who worked, but by 2014, the number has risen to 6 in 10. The US Department of Education has data which shows that students who participate in after-school programs do not exhibit improved academic progress.

Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit that supports after-school programs, estimates that 10 million children take advantage of such a program. Of those, only 1.6 million are in the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which serve children in low-income neighborhoods. The larger number of children are enrolled in private after-school care.

The Afterschool Alliance predicts that 20 million more students would take advantage of an afterschool program if it were available to them. Schwarzenegger referenced information which shows that the major amount of juvenile crime and violent gang-related crime happens between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

US Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) is of the opinion that 21st Century Community Learning Centers grants should end. EdSource’s Susan Frey writes the senator is the chair of the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, the committee that is revising the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind, which includes the community learning center funding.

As for California, it has plenty of funding for its After School Education and Safety Program – $550 million a year – but it covers only grades K-8. The state relies on federal dollars for the upper grades’ before- and after school and summer programs.

Mark Dynarski, writing for The Brookings Institution, says the CCLC was establish in 1994 with the goal of promoting schools as community resources, and later the program shifted to support after-school programs. When the program was evaluated by the Mathematica Policy Research team, it found that it did not affect the outcomes in the areas of grades, test scores, attendance, and behavior. In one of those areas, student behavior, the outcome was actually worse.

In spite of these findings, today the program spends more than a billion dollars annually. Working parents benefit from the program, since it provides them with inexpensive childcare with the safety of a school setting. But there is already a program for that – the Child Care and Development Block Grant. It gives money to states to support childcare for low-income families at roughly $5 billion a year.

Dynarski believes that eliminating the 21st Century program, but allowing states to support after-school programs by using other titles, is an option. He says what is most important is to look at the evidence of the success of any program “without rose-colored glasses.”