The president’s education funding proposal promotes innovative conceptions of schooling, too. The administration proposes reforming the $1.16 billion 21st Century Community Learning Centers, or CCLC program, which has traditionally disseminated state-formula grants to fund after-school programs. The budget proposal’s CCLC program awards competitive grants to states, districts, and nonprofit organizations to support innovative strategies that expand the school calendar and transform schools to serve not only students but entire communities.
Expanded learning time schools formally incorporate traditional out-of-school activities—including enrichment activities such as the arts and service opportunities—into the official school calendar so all students, including those living in the highest poverty, have access. After-school programs can help address both students’ academic and nonacademic needs, but participation in these programs is voluntary—a significant drawback. What’s more, low-income and disadvantaged students who are most likely to benefit from such programs are often less likely to participate.
Expanded learning time can close not only academic achievement gaps but enrichment gaps as well, and students who are most likely to fall behind, such as English language learners, have much to gain from this new way of schooling.
Coupled with a commitment to research, data collection, and evaluation—as is the case with this program—the Expanding Educational Options program can help invigorate the way schooling is currently done. Even if ESEA is not reauthorized this year, congressional appropriators should fund this program as proposed in the administration’s budget.
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