Saturday, April 1, 2017

Gerard Robinson ― Dear President Trump: afterschool learning matters, too

Gerard Robinson is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he works on education policy issues including choice in public and private schools, regulatory development and implementation of K-12 laws, the role of for-profit institutions in education, prison education and reentry, rural education, and the role of community colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in adult advancement.

(The American Enterprise Institute) - I voted for Donald Trump in the March 1 Virginia primary and November 8 election. I think his entrepreneurial mindset is a breath of fresh air for American politics. But while an entrepreneurial mindset is important, it will not solve all of the challenges facing American education overnight. Nor will it guarantee every Pre-K-20 proposal is good public policy. The administration’s proposal to eliminate all federal funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers (afterschool CCLCs) that serve 1.6 million students in 50 states is one such example.

On March 16, President Trump released his proposal for the Department of Education’s (ED) fiscal year 2018 budget. The proposed budget is $59 billion in discretionary funding, which amounts to a loss of $9 billion, or a reduction of 13 percent, from federal spending in 2017. With a $559 billion budget deficit this year—2.9 percent of the nation’s GDP—cuts to federal programs are inevitable. The proposal to cut ED’s $1.2 billion investment in CCLCs stemmed from this overall rationale. But what is the deeper rationale for this program cut?

A sentence used to justify the cut says it all: “The programs lack strong evidence of meeting its objectives, such as improving student achievement.” Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, echoed this when he replied to a reporter’s question about the elimination of a successful Pennsylvania afterschool program during a White House press briefing. “They’re supposed to be educational programs, right?” he asked. “There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re …helping kids do better in school.”

Based on my own research on afterschool programs, and the work of dozens of other researchers over the last decade, that simply is not true.

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