Tuesday, October 17, 2000
Today, in a speech at the National Press Club, White House Chief of Staff John Podesta released a new Department of Education report on federal support for after-school and summer-school programs. The report shows how 21st Century Community Learning Centers are enabling communities to provide opportunities for improving academic achievement while keeping kids safe. Mr. Podesta also urged Congress to pass a budget that invests in America's education priorities. To date, Congress has failed to produce a budget that offers tax cuts and a school renovation initiative to help modernize crumbling schools; adequately funds after-school programs; reduces class sizes in the early grades; strengthens accountability for failing schools; and helps put a qualified teacher in every classroom.
STRESSING THE IMPORTANCE OF AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAMS. Under the leadership of President Clinton and Vice President Gore, 21st Century Community Learning Centers have grown from a $1 million demonstration program in 1997 to a $453 million initiative in 2000. Currently, 3,600 schools in over 900 communities across the country are providing extended learning opportunities and a safe, nurturing environment to 650,000 students during afternoon hours, when young people are most likely to commit or be the victims of crime. In addition to providing a safe haven for "latch-key" kids, 21st Century Community Learning Centers offer students access to homework centers, tutors, and cultural and recreational activities. Findings included in today's report include:
- Virtually all Community Learning Centers provide reading support, and over 90% offer math support;
- After-school programs are helping to boost student achievement across the country;
- The peak hours for juvenile crime and victimization are between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.;
- Students who spend 1-4 hours per week in extracurricular activities are half as likely to use drugs and one-third less likely to become teen parents;
- Some 90% of grantees partner with community-based organizations, thus raising community involvement in public schools;
- Over 80% of voters agree that access to after-school programs for all children is important, yet nearly two-thirds of voters report that it is difficult to find such programs in their communities.
REPUBLICAN EDUCATION BUDGET IGNORES AMERICA'S PRIORITIES. The demand for high-quality after-school opportunities continues to exceed available resources, and last year only 1 in 7 Community Learning Center applications could be funded. President Clinton has requested $1 billion in FY 2001 to more than triple the number of students benefiting from these programs, helping to provide after-school opportunities for more than one quarter of the nation's 8 million "latch-key" kids. However, Congress still has not completed an education budget, neglecting America's priorities while loading spending bills with election-year earmarked projects for special interests. The Republican budget:
- Provides no guaranteed funding for urgent school repairs;
- Denies safe extended-learning environments to 1.6 million children by supporting 3,100 fewer centers in 900 fewer communities than the President's budget would;
- Provides no guaranteed funds for class-size reduction;
- Fails to support teacher professional development, recruitment, and rewards at the President's $1 billion request, and would not help ensure a qualified teacher in every classroom;
- Provides no money for the Accountability Fund, which helps states and school districts turn around low-performing schools;
- Freezes GEAR UP at this year's level, denying support to encourage college attendance to the 250,000 additional children the President's budget would serve.