In March of this year (2017, if you are reading this in the future, and whoa! That is a cool thought!), the administration proposed to eliminate $1.1 billion from 21st Century Community Learning Centers in the FY2018 budget, which provides funding for many out-of-school-time programs, including before and after school and summer programs. In July, that amount was down to $192 million in the US House of Representatives FY2018 plan. The Senate voted to keep the original funding for 21st CCLC. Just two weeks ago, the House amended the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act (H.R. 3354) to cut $92 million, rather than $192 million from 21st CLCC. Now, as the House and Senate try to negotiate final budget numbers, the numbers look like this:
As you can see, this is not a simple thank you. Representative McCarthy outlined his stance on the budget, his concerns over federal over-spending and national debt, and his position that the July version of H.R.3354, cutting $191 million from 21st CCLC is the right way to go for our nation. Representative McCarthy's position is not without merit. Without care taken with federal spending, our nation could be in a precarious position in regards to its debt, and a $191 million "modest reduction" doesn't seem like much out of $1.192 billion, right?
We aren't, however, talking about just dollars, though. There is a human cost here. Setting aside, for now, the fact that afterschool programs help parents to keep jobs and continue education to improve their situations, and also looking past the fact that programs provide jobs for many people, $191 million represents afterschool for nearly 200,000 students. Afterschool programs provide a healthy snack or meal for students who might, otherwise, not have food. Many programs, like ours, have daily physical activity, while kids left at home alone might just sit at computers or in front of televisions. Homework help, academic enrichment, dance, music, art, STEM, computer programming, and many more activities engage students and keep their minds active. For 200,000 children, these benefits are vital. Students like these:
And students like this young man:
This fourth grader's page reads, "I support after school because my parents work from 7:00am to 5:00pm and if I did not have after school I would have no(where) to go."
And that is the point. Afterschool provides a lot of benefit, but most importantly, afterschool programs keep kids safe. Safe from:
That $191 million might seem like a "modest reduction" to lawmakers, but that is the enrichment, continued education, physical fitness, nutrition and, most importantly, safety of 200,000 children. 200,000 children! Some of whom might be at home, some out causing trouble, and some might literally have nowhere to go. So, no, Representative McCarthy, we don't think this is a "modest" or reasonable reduction, because these numbers play with children's lives and futures. We are not the only ones to feel this way, either.
Policy makers and elected officials, please restore the $1.192 billion 21st CCLC budget, and afterschool advocates, keep making your voices heard. This is not just about dollars, but about real impact on real human beings, vulnerable human beings, who need our help.