NLC and Dept. of Education Partner to Advance Afterschool Opportunities

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This post was written by Jen Rinehart, Vice President of Research & Policy at the Afterschool Alliance. It originally appeared on the Afterschool Alliance’s Afterschool Snack blog.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to talk with a room full of mayors, city council members and education/policy advisors about the role of federal policy in local afterschool efforts.  With a crowd like that, I certainly felt like I was standing on the wrong side of the podium!

It was a dynamic discussion about how federal policies related to 21st Century Community Learning Centers grants, Child Care Development funds and newly proposed initiatives—like Race to the Top-Equity and Opportunity—may impact local afterschool initiatives.

Many of the city leaders in the room were first drawn to afterschool because they recognized it as a strategy to keep their communities safe.  After learning more about afterschool, they readily saw how keeping youth safe also supports working families, which is linked to worker productivity and therefore economic development.  This necessitates a skilled workforce of the future, which brings you right back to education and safety again.  In short, they were quickly sold on the importance of afterschool.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at the Congressional City Conference.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at the Congressional City Conference.

I’d like to take credit for the participants’ excitement about afterschool, but in truth it was most likely the result of an announcement made earlier that morning.  Saint Paul, Minnesota, Mayor Chris Coleman, president of the National League of Cities, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan laid out a plan detailing how they would work together to boost partnerships among federal and local governments, schools, families, faith-based organizations, businesses, nonprofits and universities to advance learning, enhance student engagement and improve schools in cities across the country.

Increasing access to afterschool programs, along with early childhood education and postsecondary education, was a key part of the plan.  It is exciting to see afterschool recognized by these two national leaders and organizations as a key strategy to close the achievement gap and improve educational opportunities for all.  Throughout the year, community conversations will be held in the following cities, with leadership from the mayor of each city:

Avondale, Arizona – Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers
Berkeley, California – Mayor Tom Bates
Dayton, Ohio – Mayor Nan Whaley
Gary, Indiana – Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson
Hattiesburg, Mississippi – Mayor Johnny Dupree
Kansas City, Missouri – Mayor Sly James
Louisville, Kentucky – Mayor Greg Fischer
Madison, Wisconsin – Mayor Paul Soglin
Memphis, Tennessee – Mayor A C Wharton
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania- Mayor Michael Nutter
Phoenix, Arizona – Mayor Greg Stanton
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – Mayor William Peduto
Saint Paul, Minnesota – Mayor Chris Coleman
Salt Lake City, Utah – Mayor Ralph Becker
Savannah, Georgia – Mayor Edna Branch Jackson

We are excited to follow these conversations and to see what plans take shape in each of these 15 cites, and hopefully even more cities, throughout the year.