Can Your City Stand to Lose Afterschool Funding?

The president’s budget proposal includes a $1.2 billion cut to school programs that will impact more than 1,600,000 children and their families.

There are a number of ways city leaders can strengthen partnerships and build public will to support afterschool initiatives like the 21st Century Community Learning Center program. (Getty Images)

This April recess, NLC is encouraging city leaders to engage with their members of Congress while they are at home in their districts for two weeks. Don’t let Congress leave America’s cities behind — join us as we #FightTheCuts proposed in the administration’s budget.

This post was co-authored by Nan Whaley and Bela Shah Spooner. It is part of a series on the 2018 federal budget.

Last month, President Donald Trump released his 2018 federal budget proposal, which contains across-the-board cuts to programs that are critical to cities. Included in those cuts was the elimination of the only federal funding stream dedicated to supporting quality afterschool and summer learning programs for 1.6 million children across the country who attend high-poverty, low-performing schools — the 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) grants.

The programs funded through 21st CCLC grants provide essential academic and enrichment supports to children and young teens after school and during the summer while also providing a critical value to working parents, businesses and city leaders. Programs run from the time when school lets out around 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 or 7:00 p.m., enabling parents to stay at work knowing that their children are safe and learning. Kids in these programs also often receive an after-school snack or meal through additional federal funding that originates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture; sometimes it’s the only meal they will have until the next morning.

For working parents, these afterschool programs are a lifeline, helping them work those extra few hours each day to pay the bills and providing their children a nutritious meal. For businesses, these programs mean employees with children are more likely to have peace of mind when their children are out of school, keeping productivity high. For cities, these programs keep their communities safe, incentivize businesses to locate in places where employees have supports, and engage children in learning and on a path to graduation — all while helping the future generation develop key skills to land a job and support the local economy in the future.

Municipal leaders all know that successful, productive young people equal a successful city. Without these essential programs on which kids, families and communities rely, cities will be faced with hundreds or thousands of kids with no place to go after school. No one needs to tell a mayor, city councilmember, police chief or chamber of commerce executive how much of a problem that could be.

These programs also provide a critical service to parents and caregivers, allowing them to continue to work during these hours and thus contributing to the local economy and their own economic mobility.

National Demand for Afterschool Programs

There has long been a national demand for federal funding for afterschool programs. Congress first authorized the 21st Century Community Learning Center program in 1998 for $40 million. Based on documented need and demand, it was reauthorized in 2002 through the No Child Left Behind Act for $1 billion, transferring the administration of the grants from the U.S. Department of Education to state education agencies. The 21st CCLC program was again reauthorized in 2015 through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for $1.167 billion, showing bipartisan support and recognition of the importance of this funding stream for afterschool programs. Each state receives a fixed amount of 21st CCLC dollars, based on its share of Title I funding for low-income students, and afterschool programs at the local level apply for these dollars.

Even with this funding, hundreds of applications in each state are denied each year due to lack of funds. National data show that, while 10.2 million children participate in afterschool programs, almost 20 million children are waiting to get in. Cutting another million children out of programs puts our cities and families at risk.

In Dayton alone, 12,000 additional children would benefit from access to 21st CCLC afterschool and summer programs that currently support 40,000 children across the state of Ohio. This story is not unique to Dayton or any one city or town.

Nationwide, cities need these programs. As part of its City of Learners initiative, the city of Dayton has committed to preparing its young people for success in life and careers through afterschool and summer learning programs that help children and youth develop the skills that will put them on a path to success. It is vital for municipal leaders to understand the importance of federal funding for afterschool programs and the real impact they have on the lives of children and families in our communities. A tremendous burden will be on cities to respond if these funds are cut.

Lending Your Voice

The National League of Cities (NLC) has joined with the Afterschool Alliance, 139 national and more than 1,000 state and local organizations calling on House and Senate appropriators to reject the president’s proposed budget and fund the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative at or above its current level of $1.167 billion. Now is the time for you to lend your voice to this effort. Contact your member of Congress to ensure that they know the direct impact these proposed budget cuts will have on their communities and in their state. Here are four easy ways you can help:

  • Find out how many children in your state need afterschool programs and connect with your statewide afterschool network to learn how many kids are served by 21st CCLC programs in your community. Share those numbers with your representatives, either in a face-to-face meeting in your district or through a phone call to their office. Adding local stories to these numbers is critical.
  • Visit a 21st Century Community Learning Center in your city or town and hold a press conference about its value and how the proposed budget cuts could eliminate this critical program. Galvanize support in your community to contact your representatives to save the program.
  • Write an op-ed in your local newspaper on the importance of this program to your city and community. Send the article to your representative as well.
  • Contact Bela Shah Spooner at NLC to share your concern and learn more about NLC’s efforts to fight these cuts. NLC staff are always prepared to support you in your efforts to advocate for programs that are important to cities.

The Afterschool Alliance and the Senate Afterschool Caucus invite you to attend Afterschool and Summer Learning Programs: Preparing Young People for 21st Century Success, a briefing on Friday, April 21 at 1:00 p.m. EDT in room 385 of the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. NLC is co-sponsoring the briefing; please contact Bela Shah Spooner for more information.

About the authors:

Nan Whaley is the mayor of Dayton, Ohio.

 

Bela Shah Spooner is the program manager for expanded learning at the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.

Why the City of Austin Created a Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights

Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Director of Parks and Recreation Sara Hensley won the unanimous support of the city council when they recently created the document as part of a larger strategy to connect children to nature.

The city of Austin created the Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights as part of a larger plan which aims to help city leaders foster key strategies that will provide more equitable and abundant connections to nature for all children. A primary focus of the plan is on greening school yards and creating a new network of school parks. (Getty Images)

This is a guest post by Steven Adler and Sara Hensley. This post is part of a series celebrating parks and nature during National Parks Week.

Over the last decade, the Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) of Austin, Texas, has been a leader in the rapidly expanding grassroots movement of organizations dedicated to getting more kids outside and educating parents, teachers and healthcare providers about the benefits of frequent connections with nature. When the Cities Connecting Children to Nature (CCCN) Initiative — a partnership between the National League of Cities and the Children and Nature Network — was launched, Austin’s Children in Nature movement was poised to take the next step to elevate its message and work toward a more impactful interdepartmental and cross-sector scale citywide.

Concurrently, Mayor Steve Adler launched the Spirit of East Austin equity initiative to focus new energy on breaking down barriers along Austin’s eastern crescent, historically a dividing line for race and economic prosperity. The CCCN Implementation Plan, which aims to help city leaders foster key strategies that will provide more equitable and abundant connections to nature for all children, offered the perfect opportunity to bridge the missions of PARD and the mayor’s office by focusing on issues of nature access in areas of Austin that have been historically underserved.

Since research shows that children who learn and play in nature are healthier, happier and perform better in school, Austin’s CCCN Plan focuses on greening school yards and creating a new network of school parks. Austin’s CCCN Plan seeks to provide daily access to rich nature environments for tens of thousands of underserved students and strengthen communities with nearby nature across our entire city. This collaborative effort has produced a three-year implementation plan that not only connects and reinforces goals shared by PARD and the mayor’s office but also brings together multiple city departments, Austin’s Independent School District, dozens of nonprofit organizations, and the health sector.

To launch this plan, the Austin CCCN team developed the Austin’s Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights (COBOR) Resolution to serve as a public-facing symbol of the overarching goals Austin has for its children. The resolution states that children of all backgrounds and abilities have a number of inherent rights:

(City of Austin)

With strategic guidance from Austin Councilmember Leslie Pool as well as Mayor Adler, PARD built support for the Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights resolution, resulting in a pledge signed by more than 1000 citizens, an official endorsement by the Austin Independent School District as a supporting partner, and the Austin City Council’s unanimous vote of approval on January 26, 2017.

City actions to bring the Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights to life include the immediate implementation of the Green School Parks Project in areas of Austin with low “nature equity.” The goal of this project is to create nature-rich environments on school campuses that are co-owned by PARD and the Austin Independent School District. These school parks will serve as natural outdoor spaces for students to learn, play, and grow while at the same time providing nature-rich environments to the surrounding community outside of school hours.

The Green School Parks Project kicked off in January 2017 at Barrington Elementary and is currently in the Community Engagement Phase, taking input via a photo survey from teachers, students, parents and community members about the kinds of nature features they would like included on the school grounds. Design plans should be finalized this May, and build-out will be complete by fall 2017, in time for the new school year.

Moving into 2018 and 2019, the project will be expanded to nearby Wooldridge Elementary and Cook Elementary, with the goal of expanding the model across the Austin Independent School District over the next five to 10 years. Schools will be prioritized based on need with an innovative “Nature Equity Map” that layers nature, economic opportunity and health factors to create a “Nature Equity Score.” This map will continue to be updated and revised using the best available data to ensure nature access is being created where it is most needed in Austin.

As we continue to expand the Green School Parks Project, the Austin Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights will serve as a key communication tool across a diverse array of partners striving to promote equitable and abundant nature access in Austin. The Outdoor Bill of Rights can be adopted by any person or organization. The extent of the impact of the Outdoor Bill of Rights and the larger CCCN Plan on Austin children will depend upon PARD’s sustained support and a robust network of partners working daily to ensure that every child in Austin has the opportunity to experience nature. With this commitment in place, the city of Austin will continue to lead in connecting children to nature and improving equity across our city.

About the authors:

Steve Adler is the mayor of Austin, Texas.

 

Sara Hensley is the interim assistant city manager and director of parks and recreation for the city of Austin.

Don’t Cut Funding for Programs That Help Children Thrive in Cities Across the Country

Federally-funded programs like those slated for elimination in President Trump’s 2018 Budget Blueprint have a proven record of results for young children, and simply cannot survive without continued federal support.

Group of young children drawing with chalk on the sidewalk

Local leaders agree that early investment in a child’s development can make all the difference when it comes to the future success of their youngest residents. (Getty Images)

This April recess, NLC is encouraging city leaders to engage with their members of Congress while they are at home in their districts for two weeks. Don’t let Congress leave America’s cities behind — join us this week and next as we #FightTheCuts proposed in the administration’s budget.

This post is part of a series on the 2018 federal budget.

Ask any city leader and they will tell you that giving children a strong start in life is one of the most important investments we can make toward building vibrant and prosperous communities. This is not just anecdotal — research tells us that 90 percent of a child’s brain development has occurred by the age of five, with 700 neural connections per second being formed during the early years of a child’s brain development.

At the National League of Cities (NLC), we amplify the work local leaders are doing to increase early childhood opportunities for young children. Through partnerships with NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families, cities are aligning systems for young children to improve outcomes for children and their families.

City leaders can significantly advance local progress through programs, policies and the alignment of systems that impact young children, but this work exists within a federal and state context. From help paying the high costs of child care to seats in a Head Start classroom, federally-funded programs like those slated for elimination in President Trump’s 2018 Budget Blueprint have a proven record of results for young children, and simply cannot survive without continued federal support. This budget proposal will harm city leaders’ abilities to foster high-quality early childhood opportunities and support families.

While the blueprint is only a “skinny budget,” we can expect to see a larger plan in the near future that details the more than $54 billion in proposed cuts to domestic programs that help children and families in cities thrive. Cuts to key departments like Health and Human Services should alarm city leaders whose communities benefit from programs like Head Start, which serves over a million children each year.

Classrooms in every state in the country help young children develop cognitive and developmental skills and establish habits that shape their future health outcomes. Without Head Start, many more of our most vulnerable parents would be without an early education setting for their children. Long waiting lists mean that less than half of eligible three- and four-year-olds are able to participate in Head Start.

The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) is another example of a federal program investing in early childhood. Despite its lengthy name, its purpose is simple: to help parents afford child care. The cost of child care is out of reach for too many families. Center-based infant care is more expensive than one year of public university tuition in 30 states and Washington, D.C.

The experiences children have in child care lay the foundation for their cognitive development and allow their parents to work and pursue education. Every year, businesses lose approximately $4.4 billion due to employee absenteeism as a result of child care breakdowns. However, current levels of funding prevent five out of six eligible children from receiving CCDBG dollars to help their parents afford care.

These are just two examples of the federal programs that work to improve outcomes for young children in cities nationwide. A lack of funding for these critical programs already leaves many needs unmet, and further cuts to domestic programs would risk eliminating this support altogether. On behalf of city leaders, we strongly encourage Congress to stand with children, families and cities across the country and stop cuts to key early childhood programs that our cities’ children and families rely on.

Learn more about NLC’s #FightTheCuts campaign.

About the author: Alana Eichner is the Early Childhood Associate in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.

How the City of Grand Rapids is Amplifying Local Voices to Connect Children with Nature

Dialogue between the city’s parks and recreation department and its schools and residents has resulted in a new environmentally-focused park system – built around local history and identity – that aims to connect children to nature.

Plaster Creek, a tributary of the Grand River, runs through multiple parks, neighborhoods and commercial areas in southeast Grand Rapids, Michigan. (photo: Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department)

This is a guest post by David Marquardt and Catherine Zietse.

On a sunny afternoon last fall, neighbors from the Hispanic community in southwest Grand Rapids, Michigan, met to re-imagine the space of Roosevelt Park, a well-loved neighborhood gathering place. The group made its way past the picnic shelter and the playground to a wooded bank near a small creek that unobtrusively winds its way along the edge of the park. Conversation quieted as they paused to listen to the babbling sound of the creek water and enjoy the dappled sunlight bursting through the colorful fall leaves.

During this unexpected respite, a moment of realization occurred and a few of the women looked at each other in excitement. This space, they later explained, was just like many in their home country of Guatemala, where women frequently gather along river banks to weave and share conversations. The women noted how remarkable it would be if there were greater access to places like this in their neighborhood.

This story is just one of many shared by city residents through the robust public outreach component of Grand Rapids’ Parks and Recreation Strategic Master Plan. The story captures the desire of a community to better connect to its environment, unique cultural legacy, and neighbors. By providing a space for these connections to thrive, parks have a great impact on the quality of life of city residents. As one resident described, parks “breathe life into our city.”

“My hope for this city is that we would not only maintain our parks, but proliferate them. Through that, we can allow more children to have experiences of joy and compassion. If we understand the world around us, we can understand each other better.”

These words were shared by one of many young presenters at KidSpeak, an event at which Grand Rapids children and teenagers discuss the value of green space in their everyday lives. Organized by Our Community’s Children (a partnership between the city of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Public Schools), this annual event gives children the opportunity to speak directly to local legislators about important issues in their community. With the theme “Planting Seeds for a Greener Grand Rapids,” many young people spoke of moments when an experience with nature made a notable impact on their lives.

The perspectives and stories shared by Grand Rapids youth during KidSpeak were an important part of shaping the vision for future green spaces incorporated in the city’s Parks and Recreation Strategic Master Plan. Other voices heard at farmer’s markets, cultural festivals, neighborhood meetings, park walks and community barbeques across the city also impacted the Master Plan vision and recommendations.

In conversations and comments regarding the Master Plan, the Grand Rapids community made it clear that they want more contact with natural spaces and local culture in their everyday lives.

Students at C.A. Frost Environmental Science Academy take the classroom outdoors. (photo: Blandford Nature Center)

Grand Rapids has a unique ecological legacy created when retreating glaciers shaped the Grand River, a fertile river valley that offers striking vistas from its bluffs. The distinctive nature of the landscape is complemented by the strong identity of the people of Grand Rapids, who take great pride in celebrating the diversity of local art, music and culture in their community.

Today, Grand Rapids parks have great untapped potential to be vibrant spaces reflective of their unique ecological environment and the diverse community around them – but many of the current parks and play spaces lack distinction, making this an ideal time to restore and showcase these parks.

Parks and Schools Shared Use Partnership

The partnership between the city’s parks and recreation department and Grand Rapids Public Schools is critical to attaining an environmentally-focused park system. The relationship between parks and public schools has always been strong in Grand Rapids, and with energized leadership from Mayor Rosalyn Bliss and Superintendent Theresa Weatherall Neal, the future looks bright for the city’s children.

Much like important advocacy opportunities such as the KidSpeak event, the preservation of the Joint-Use Agreement between the parks department and Grand Rapids Public Schools provides a unique opportunity to maximize the potential of every natural area in Grand Rapids and extend the reach of green space into every neighborhood. Future collaboration in these spaces will transform parks and playgrounds into natural classrooms and learning labs where children can authentically interact with the world around them.

Instead of common playgrounds or traditional large fields of grass, the spaces in parks can be used as opportunities for discovering and exploring an area’s unique ecological environment, local history and neighborhood context. This process can be achieved by incorporating art, playground amenities, signage and programming, or other enhancements. Moving forward, the Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department plans to continue intentional engagement with teachers and children in the design of public spaces to create natural classrooms that make encounters with local ecology and culture an everyday occurrence.

Thousands of citizens in Grand Rapids have been engaged in shaping a new community- and environmentally-focused mission for the city’s parks and recreation department. Together, the city and its residents will build on months of inclusive participation to shape an equitable approach to future investment in Grand Rapids’ valued natural areas that will connect the community and its children to the city’s unique ecological environment and cherished local culture.

About the authors:

David Marquardt is the director of Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation.

 

 

Catherine Zietse is the planning and community relations coordinator at Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation and one of the department’s team leads in garnering meaningful community engagement in all park work.

Why the City of New Orleans Just Ended Cash Bail for Low-Risk Crimes

A new policy promises to save the city money and enable the court to tailor conditions to an individual rather than relying on a person’s ability to pay.

By choosing to reserve pretrial jail detention only for those who pose a real public safety or flight risk, the city of New Orleans is leading the way toward more fair and effective justice system policies in Louisiana. (Getty Images)

In the past, low-income defendants who were charged with minor municipal offenses in New Orleans faced a quagmire. People with charges such as loitering or public intoxication could face up to a month in jail before they even went to trial simply because they could not afford bail. Sometimes, these charges would not have resulted in any jail time even if the individual was found guilty. On any given day, three out of 10 jail beds were filled by people incarcerated simply because they could not afford to pay their bail or fines and fees. In New Orleans, as in many other cities, the problems within the system disproportionately affected minority communities. In 2015, black New Orleanians, who comprise roughly 59 percent of the population, paid $5.4 million in bond premiums, or 84 percent of the $6.4 million total.

Losing a primary caregiver or earner to jail for even three days can devastate a family with few resources, leading to a cascade of problems including eviction, job loss and possibly intervention from child protective services.

Jailing people only because they cannot afford bail not only hurts families but costs cities money as well. In 2015, New Orleans spent $6.4 million detaining people who were jailed simply because they could not pay. This equates to 3,947 people who spent a total of 199,930 days in jail.

In response to these issues, the city of New Orleans recently passed an ordinance which ends the use of cash bail for municipal offenses for low-risk crimes. While the legislation eliminates the practice of cash bail for most municipal offenses, it also meets public safety needs by providing exceptions for charges such as simple battery and domestic abuse violence. In these cases, the municipal court makes a decision to impose non-financial release conditions or, in rare cases, preventative detention. The new policy also provides exceptions for people who get rearrested or fail to appear for their court date.

Starting in April, people charged with minor municipal offenses, regardless of their ability to pay, will be able to return to their families and take care of their responsibilities while waiting for their case to come before a judge. Passed unanimously by the city council in January, the ordinance has the support of both law enforcement and community advocates.

Support from the Pretrial Justice Institute, the Vera Institute of Justice, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge helped the city accomplish this crucial change to our local justice system. As the lead sponsor of the legislation, I prioritized this reform to make sure New Orleans uses its resources wisely, reduces harm to families and communities, and protects public safety.

Read more about NLC’s efforts to support criminal justice reform.

About the author: Councilmember Susan Guidry was elected to the New Orleans City Council as the District A representative in March 2010, and was elected to a second term in 2014. Guidry has served as chair of the council’s Criminal Justice Committee throughout her tenure.

Five Issues Tackled by Youth Delegates at the Congressional City Conference

The delegates designed their own sessions focused on leadership and skill development, developed strategies to solve problems in their communities, and learned the importance of advocacy at all levels of government.

Youth delegates at the Congressional City Conference learn to lobby, advocate, and collaborate on the issues that matter most to them. (Jason Dixson/NLC)

This is the fifth post in a series highlighting NLC’s 2017 Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C., March 11-15.

Youth delegates from 37 cities across the nation convened this week at the 2017 Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C. In sessions with their peers and other youth allies, the delegates critically analyzed issues in their communities and developed strategies and solutions.

In one of the most engaging sessions, Lobbying and Advocacy: Making the Youth Voice Heard, delegates heard from former congressional staffers as well as current lobbyists and consultants about the importance of the youth voice in all levels of government and their power to make a difference on both a small and large scale.

As part of this session, each youth council represented at the conference identified a problem in their city, formulated a solution, and developed a plan to lobby local, state and federal leaders for change. They then encapsulated the problem, its solution and convincing messaging into a concise elevator pitch. Here are five issues discussed at the session:

Lack of youth involvement in local government: Delegates from Olathe, Kansas, and Fayetteville, North Carolina, identified the potential benefits of increased youth participation in local government, and each youth council took a different approach to this issue. Delegates from Olathe suggested creating a teen council to listen to other youth problems and presenting those problems to city councilmembers. Delegates from Fayetteville created a plan to lower the local voting age to 16 to increase voter turnout and local knowledge. Their strong argument: “Sixteen-year-olds pay taxes if they have jobs – and there should not be taxation without representation!”

Possible loss of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding: Delegates from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, identified the importance of CDBG funds in their city that help subsidize many youth programs. One delegate from Milwaukee noted that “these programs affect the longevity and success of youth in our city.”

Plastic pollution in cities: Delegates from Hillsboro, Oregon, described their plan to ban plastic bags in their city as “a way to save the community and contribute to a global movement.” They highlighted the fact that more than 50 percent of plastic bags are used just once and then thrown away.

Mental illness awareness and resources: Delegates from the cities of Brighton and Loveland in Colorado addressed the lack of mental illness awareness and resources in their schools and communities. Both youth councils emphasized reducing teen suicide rates and teaming up with mental health organizations to implement more programs.

Dangers of invasive species: Delegates from Buckeye, Arizona, shared a unique problem in their community: the damage created by an invasive plant, the salt cedar tree. One salt cedar tree can use up to 300 gallons of water per day, meaning that 200,000 households could use the water currently being used by salt cedar trees. Their solution? Release the Salt Cedar Creek Beetle to combat the invasive species. The delegates highlighted the documented success of this strategy, which is already underway in some areas of Texas.

Feedback from the session’s panelists allowed the youth to expand on their ideas and explore ways to make their arguments more powerful. The delegates also learned about the importance of highlighting reliable data and sharing examples of best practices in similar towns and cities.

Youth delegates are sure to take their invaluable experiences at the Congressional City Conference back to their youth councils at home to spark effective change in their communities. Their enduring engagement and involvement in all of the sessions proved their dedication to the betterment of their communities.

About the author: Alessia Riccio is the 2016-2017 National League of Cities Menino Fellow in the partnership between Boston University’s Initiative on Cities and NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.

Four Takeaways from the California Afterschool and Summer Nutrition Summits

For local officials, now is the perfect time to convene community partners to ensure your city is utilizing all available resources that help keep children engaged and healthy when school is out.

Implementing successful meal programs – and sustaining them – takes coordination and collaboration on many levels. (Getty Images)

This post was co-authored by Clarissa Hayes and Dawn Schluckebier. It originally ran as part of the Food Research & Action Center’s FRAC On the Move series, which follows policy and program experts as they connect with advocates across the country to explore strategies and develop solutions to end hunger.

Representatives from the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) and the National League of Cities (NLC) recently joined the California Department of Education and more than 250 California representatives from local governments, school nutrition departments, food banks, law enforcement agencies, libraries, county health departments, community-based organizations, literacy and youth development agencies at two regional afterschool and summer nutrition summits, one in Richmond and one in San Bernardino County.

Hosted by the California Summer Meal Coalition, the summits provided attendees the opportunity to learn more about federally-funded summer and afterschool meal programs and share ideas and best practices for increasing the number of children served in their communities.

The Coalition – a program of the Institute for Local Government – is a key partner in NLC and FRAC’s Cities Combating Hunger through Afterschool and Summer Meal Programs (CHAMPS) initiative. CHAMPS has provided support to more than 41 cities and 18 anti-hunger organizations across the country to develop and implement strategies to increase children’s access to healthy meals and snacks through the child nutrition programs.

This year, new CHAMPS projects are being launched in three states: Alabama, California, and Kansas. In California, NLC, FRAC and the Coalition are partnering to provide technical assistance to 11 grantee cities and a number of city agencies to increase participation in afterschool and summer meals.

Collaboration was the theme of both summits. Speakers and attendees discussed the importance of collaboration among city, county, school and community leaders to leverage limited resources. In Southern California, the summit was followed by a breakfast for elected city, county and school district leaders to highlight the critical role that elected officials can play to advance the health and well-being of their communities by supporting access to afterschool and summer meal programs.  These roles range from supporting the development of a citywide promotion campaign and participating in local community events to sponsoring and operating the Afterschool and Summer Nutrition Programs and working with county and school colleagues to identify solutions to out-of-school time barriers.

Attendees at both summits left energized and equipped with innovative strategies to try, new partners to engage, and a renewed commitment to year-round nutrition access. Four key summit takeaways:

City leaders can play a critical role in supporting meal programs.

Hayward City Councilman Mark Salinas shared an example of the important role city leaders and elected officials can play in expanding summer and afterschool meal programs. After hearing about the need in his community, and the federal funding available through the afterschool and summer nutrition programs, he engaged community stakeholders and brought partners together to better meet the nutritional needs of the children in his city.

Having a vision and setting goals is important.

Implementing successful meal programs – and sustaining them – takes coordination and collaboration on many levels. Having a vision for your city and setting goals for program growth is important. These programs take time to build, and setting realistic goals helps keep efforts on track. Find out where your state ranks in summer meals participation and where you may be able to target efforts.

No community should work in a vacuum.

To reach more children with summer and afterschool meal programs, it’s important for cities, counties and school districts to work together to ensure the well-being of kids in the community. Thinking holistically about the issue of hunger and the solutions that exist – and how to include out-of-school-time in that conversation – allows us all to think creatively about strategies and the unique strengths every organization can add.

When something works, share it.

When models work locally – whether it be a specific type of marketing campaign, a way to improve the quality and appeal of meals served, or a strategy to engage elected officials – it’s important to share them broadly so they can be scaled and tailored to other communities. FRAC and Feeding America’s Anti-Hunger Policy Conference is a great place to share and learn about successes across the country – register today!

If you are a city leader, now is the perfect time to convene community partners to ensure your city is utilizing all available resources that help keep children engaged and healthy when school is out. Reach out to the anti-hunger advocates in your state to see how you can get started today.

Learn more about CHAMPS and the work being done by the California Summer Meals Coalition.

About the Authors:

Clarissa Hayes is a Child Nutrition Policy Analyst with the Food Research & Action Center.

 

 

Dawn Schluckebier is a Principal Associate for Family Economic Success in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. Follow Dawn on Twitter at @TheSchluck.

Improving Outcomes for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System

A new online resource with concrete strategies, tools, examples, and best-practice models is available to city officials looking for positive results from their municipality’s juvenile justice system programs.

(Getty Images)

City leaders play a key role in supporting the high-quality implementation of juvenile justice system policies and practices. The coordinated efforts of federal, state and local leaders can ensure that programming for youth in the juvenile justice system results in positive and sustainable outcomes for youth, their families and communities. (Getty Images)

This is a guest post by Elizabeth Seigle.

Research and field experience have demonstrated that the substance of a particular juvenile justice policy, practice or program is only as good its implementation. It is up to local policymakers and system leaders to prioritize the high-quality implementation of research-informed policies and practices. Without strategies and tools for guiding implementation processes, juvenile justice practitioners may fall short of producing significant results.

In January, the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center released the Juvenile Justice Research-to-Practice Implementation Resources. These online resources provide juvenile justice agency managers, staff, and other practitioners with concrete strategies, tools, examples, and best-practice models to help them implement research-informed policies and practices. Mayors and municipal officials may refer to these resources when advancing efforts in their own cities that are aimed at improving outcomes for youth in the juvenile justice system, and use them to help ensure that changes to policy, practice and resource allocations reflect best practice and are implemented properly.

The resources, organized by common challenges for juvenile justice programs and agencies, draw from the expertise of researchers and promising practices identified by practitioners around the country. Each resource offers methods to address those common challenges, specifically in the areas of Family Engagement and Involvement and Evidence-Based Programs and Services.

Family Engagement and Involvement

Practitioners often struggle to engage, involve, and empower the families of youth in the juvenile justice system. Because they work at the level of government closest to communities, city leaders can support local juvenile justice agency managers as they partner with leaders from probation offices, detention centers and community-based providers to apply several family engagement and involvement strategies, including:

  • Defining family broadly and identifying family members and other supportive adults using visual tools, questionnaires, and other models from the field
  • Establishing a culture of alliance with families who have children in the juvenile justice system through staff trainings, family-focused policies and protocols, family guides and peer supports
  • Involving families in supervision and service decisions through family team meetings, group conferencing models and family-oriented, evidence-based programs
  • Providing family contact opportunities for youth in facilities through flexible and inclusive policies, transportation assistance, communication technology and events to celebrate youth
  • Establishing and tracking family engagement performance measures through family advisory groups, family surveys and focus groups

Evidence-Based Programs and Services

Juvenile justice agencies and contracted service providers frequently encounter challenges in identifying appropriate evidence-based programs and services and implementing them properly, consistently and in ways that lead to better outcomes for youth. City leaders can work with their local juvenile justice agency to adopt several strategies for effectively implementing evidence-based programs and services for youth in the justice system, including:

  • Developing city ordinances that provide or increase funding for evidence-based programs and services, as well as funding for training staff and service providers in the proper implementation of evidence-based programs and services
  • Creating city council policy or legislation that mandates the establishment of service quality standards for youth in facilities or in the community
  • Requiring juvenile justice systems and service providers to regularly report to the city council on the progress and outcomes of youth under juvenile justice system supervision and on the performance of service providers

When city leaders champion proven strategies and multisystem collaboration, they emphasize the importance of effective, thoughtful juvenile justice strategies for the whole community.

elizabeth_seigle_125x150About the Author: Elizabeth Seigle is the grantee technical assistance manager for Corrections and Reentry at the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center. She oversees technical assistance to local and state juvenile justice agencies implementing the Second Chance Act and other programs funded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs and awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Ms. Seigle also supports the CSG Justice Center’s juvenile justice projects and initiatives.

 

For Students Dropped Out of School, Local Reenrollment Programs Actually Work

NLC’s 2016 Reengagement census suggests a very positive return on investment for cities that pursue a systematic approach to academic reenrollment programs.

(Getty Images)

Reengagement programs gave thousands of disconnected youth the opportunity to return to the classroom in the 2015-2016 academic year. (Getty Images)

The newest census of dropout reengagement programs from the National League of Cities (NLC) shows continuing growth in this field designed to plug a critical gap for several million youth and young adults who lack high school diplomas. The 2015-2016 data collected in the census also suggests a sustained high level of effectiveness at keeping students engaged once reenrolled in most sites, and provides important benchmarking and performance data for program operators. All told, the census suggests a very positive return on investment for cities that pursue a systematic approach to reengagement.

Via partnerships between cities, school districts, community colleges, workforce boards and others, in aggregate the 20 programs across the country responding to the census reach out to 48,077 disengaged students. Reengagement programs assisted 24,140 of those students in completing the intake process, ultimately placing 12,319 students into education programs.

The reengagement programs generally take the form of a brick-and-mortar location where students who have left the traditional education system can go to receive assistance from specialists who help them find their best-fit academic program so the students may complete their secondary education.

This year, 17 out of the 20 reengagement programs that work with NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families submitted data on where their students decided to enroll. Roughly 80 percent of students chose to attend either Alternative High Schools (39.5 percent) or GED/Adult Education Programs (38.5 percent). The remaining students chose to attend online degree programs, charter or private schools, job-training programs and other forms of educational assistance.

To track the efficacy of reengagement programs, the census asks sites to report on their persistence rate, or “stick rate” – the percentage of students who persist in or graduate from an education program in the academic year in which they reenroll. The average stick rate across 11 sites, representing 6,564 students, came in at 70.8 percent, very similar to prior years. The median stick rate stood at 67.2 percent, implying that the aggregate average skewed high as several sites reported very high stick rates. Most sites’ stick rates, however, fell within the 60 to 66 percent range.

Examining the 2016 demographic data, there appears to be little change from prior years’ data. Black and Latino students remain the most commonly reported race and ethnic categories for students placed by sites. The census found a slight decline in the number of Latino students reported from the 2015 Reengagement Census, but that change appears almost entirely due to the absence of census figures from one large site.

Trends among the ages of youth placed also continued as before, with the average reengagement student being 18 years old. The majority of students placed by reengagement programs were between the ages of 17 and 19.

Regarding gender breakdown, there was significant variation in the male-to-female ratios for those placed in reengagement programs. In some programs, males constituted an overwhelming majority of students placed, while the opposite was true in other programs. Ultimately, the average gender representation across sites showed males at 55 percent and females at 44 percent overall.

The census also collected data regarding the grade level of students at the time of placement. The most common category here was ninth grade followed by tenth grade, a pattern that continued until twelfth grade. The census found a few programs that placed students into eighth grade, i.e. middle school programs.

It is critical that students who have dropped out are given opportunities to reconnect back to education options that will prepare them for a successful adulthood. As reengagement programs continue to spread across the nation, NLC looks forward to supporting their efforts.

Join Andrew Moore, NLC’s Director of Youth and Young Adult Connections, and Niels Smith, 2016-17 Heinz Graduate Fellow, to learn more about the study and trends of Reengagement Centers across the country in a webinar on Friday, February 24 at 2 p.m. EST. Register here.

niels_smith_125x150About the author: Niels Smith is a Heinz Fellow at NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. He is currently completing his degree in Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College. Contact Niels at nsmith@nlc.org.

Forecasting the Role of Cities in Education

Both cities and the federal government want great schools because they help create a strong workforce, boosting the economy at a local and national level – but the legal and fiscal powers of both levels of government are limited, and the policies of the new administration will likely complicate this dynamic even more.

(NLC)

(NLC)

In the first installment of this series, we looked at the basics of federalism and why it matters to cities. Part two of the series focused on how one policy – affordable housing assistance – has changed with the interpretation of federalism, and what that means for cities today. In this post, we examine federalism in the context of the American educational system.

The expectation that government should provide accessible, quality education for all has become deeply engrained in the American psyche. This responsibility, however, falls squarely on the shoulders of local governments. Quality education is most often a local responsibility, increasingly paid for at the state level, and managed by policies set at the national level. More specifically, states and local school districts have always made the critical decisions about education, from who should teach to what should be taught. The role of the federal government has been more limited; education policy has long flowed from the bottom up, with the federal government often expanding innovative local policies nationally. For these reasons, education presents an interesting look at federalism.

History of National Education Policy

While the role of the federal government in education has been muted, its level of involvement has steadily increased over the last sixty years. Federal interest in schools was triggered by the launch of the Sputnik satellite by the Soviet Union in 1957 and the fear that American education was falling behind on a global scale. In 1965, President Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, delivering resources to poor urban and rural schools. Later in the 1960s and into the 1970s, the federal government worked to combat de facto segregation in public schools. The Department of Education became its own cabinet-level department in the Carter administration, only to see its budget severely reduced during Reagan’s tenure.

Similar to other policies, education policy followed the trend of heightened national importance during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, with the focus shifting back to the states during the Reagan administration. However, these federal trends coupled with changes at the state level to constrain public school budgets. Funding for education, which has typically been tied to property tax revenues, started to come under threat in 1978 when California was the first state to pass a limit on local tax collection. In 1979, state spending overtook local spending as the largest source of education funding, in effect limiting local autonomy.

Today, the federal government contributes between 8 and 10 percent of the public education budget. This amounts to $55 billion annually as of FY 2013, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Much of this funding is discretionary, which means that Congress sets the amount annually through the appropriations process.

The most recent era of federalism, while hard to define, has largely focused on accountability and performance – doing more with less money. No policy area exemplifies this better than education, and no particular legislation better than the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act. Enacted at the outset of the George W. Bush administration, NCLB was built on the premise that standards should be equalized across states so that a school’s performance could be accurately measured. These priorities continued during the Obama administration with the Race to the Top program, which rewarded states that adopted common standards and broadened performance metrics.

In the Trump administration, the Department of Education will be led by Betsy DeVos. Secretary DeVos has been an advocate for school choice, meaning the privatization of education through school voucher programs and the expansion of charter schools. It is likely she will bring her views on education reform to the Department.

Because of recent reforms to federal education funding, local governments and school districts are under pressure to ensure schools are performing adequately or they risk losing critical funding to privatization. If Vice President Mike Pence’s tenure as Indiana governor is any indication, the Administration will likely move to expand charters and voucher programs. When the vice president was governor, Indiana shifted millions of dollars shifted away from public schools, and more children from middle-income families received vouchers to attend private schools.

Steps Cities Can Take Moving Forward

While education policy is administered at the local level, city governments often do not have direct oversight of their public schools. In some municipalities, school boards are jointly appointed by the mayor, city councilors, and/or the governor. In contrast, many school districts are independent special-purpose governments with leadership that is elected rather than appointed by city officials. In both of these scenarios, the policies of the new administration will likely add to the complexity of local-federal relationships in the education arena even more.

However, whether or not cities are directly responsible for their public schools, local governments can still lead (or expand) educational programs. Many cities offer programs during out-of-school times, either in the evenings or during the summer. These programs enrich the education experience, prepare students for specific careers, or help close the racial achievement gap.

Cities can also use data to improve their school systems. In the City of Nashville, for example, a partnership between Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) and the city-funded afterschool program for middle school youth, the Nashville After Zone Alliance (NAZA), has significantly improved students’ reading ability in just three months. This is exactly the type of partnership and focus students need, especially if they are struggling or falling behind. In another example of partnerships, NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families teamed-up with MomsRising and School Readiness Consulting to produce Strong Start for Strong Cities, an early learning resource guide for mayors, councilmembers and other municipal leaders.

Finally, local elected officials can exercise leadership to support youth education beginning with pre-school, expand alternatives for students who struggle in traditional educational settings, increase high school graduation rates, and promote college access and completion.

To learn more about what NLC is doing in this policy arena – and make your voice heard at the federal level – join us at the Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C., March 11-15.

Trevor Langan 125x150About the author: Trevor Langan is the Research Associate for City Solutions and Applied Research at the National League of Cities.