Dedicated federal funding for 21st CCLC should be expanded — not eliminated

A man helps a young student working at a computer.
The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District’s 21st CCLC afterschool programs are helping to inform and enrich the district’s afterschool curriculum. Photo: Alaska Afterschool Network

The following is a statement from Ridgway White, Mott Foundation president and CEO.

It’s come to feel like the movie Groundhog Day. Each time the current administration proposes a federal budget, we expect that they’ll target the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program for elimination — despite strong bipartisan support and evidence that the program works for kids and families.

But this year is different.

The administration wants to zero out dedicated federal funding for afterschool, while also creating a single block grant that would force states to make impossible choices with fewer resources to support nearly 30 existing education programs. That means more than 1.7 million young people in our country are likely to lose their afterschool programs.

This move is misinformed and short-sighted, and it would prove costly in the long run.

The 21st CCLC program provides the only dedicated federal funding for afterschool and summer learning. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s own 2017-18 report, the program “has resulted in over 2 million low-income students and family members having a safe place to receive academic enrichment.”

The report goes on to note: “[S]tudents who participate in the 21st CCLC program are among the most at risk. The performance on the GPRA [Government Performance and Results Act] measures indicate that many participants are showing improved behavior and homework completion, student grades, and mathematics or reading/language arts assessment results.”

21st CCLC is a public-private model that encourages partnerships, leverages local resources and expands opportunities for millions of young people in their communities. It also makes good fiscal sense. Research shows every dollar invested in afterschool programs saves $3 by improving kids’ performance at school, increasing their earning potential, and reducing crime and social safety net costs.

Working moms and dads depend on 21st CCLC programs. Knowing their kids are safe and supervised after school allows parents to stay on the job after 3 p.m., and it gives them the peace of mind they need to stay focused on their work. Research shows that, when kids don’t have a safe place to go after school, parents lose the equivalent of eight days of work per year, costing businesses $300 billion a year in lost productivity.

The Council for a Strong America is also concerned about kids’ safety after the school day ends. Their recent report, “Fight Crime: Invest in Kids,” finds that afterschool programs turn risk-filled hours into time to develop young people’s academic and social skills. The report asserts that “providing access to high-quality afterschool programs for kids today will reduce crime and incarceration now and in the future.”

Instead of defending 21st CCLC, we should be discussing how to expand it to address growing demand. For every child who attends an afterschool program in the U.S., two are waiting to get in. That’s nearly 20 million children.

Teachers, parents, students, business leaders, college administrators, community advocates and others are already engaged in this important work. That’s something to be celebrated.

The 21st CCLC program also is valued by policymakers who recognize it as an effective program for student learning and development, as well as a critical support for working families. Since the administration first proposed eliminating the program in March 2017, Congress has instead expanded its funding by $58 million.

The Mott Foundation champions and supports people and programs that work to empower kids. I am certain that 21st CCLC is a program that works and is worthy of focused federal investment.