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Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, I rise today to urge my colleagues to cosponsor, S. 326 the Afterschool for America's Children Act, which I am introducing today with Senators MURKOWSKI, MURRAY, BEGICH, and MANCHIN.
Across the country, afterschool programs help keep children safe and help them learn through hands-on academic enrichment activities that are disappearing from the regular school day.
Numerous studies have shown that quality afterschool programs give students the academic, social, and professional skills they need to succeed. Students who regularly attend have better grades and behavior in school, and lower incidences of drug use, violence, and unintended pregnancy.
Over the past 10 years, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers, CCLC, program has helped support afterschool programs for millions of children from low-income backgrounds, including over 1.6 million children last year.
Unfortunately, the demand for affordable, quality afterschool experiences far exceeds the number of programs available. The 2009 report, America After 3PM, found that while afterschool programs are serving more kids than ever, the number of unsupervised children in the United States has increased. More than 18 million children have parents who would like to enroll their child in an afterschool program but can't find one available.
For over 10 years, federally funded afterschool programs have played an important role in the lives of so many children and families. The Afterschool for America's Children Act, AACA, would strengthen the 21st CCLC program, leaving in place what works and using what we have learned about what makes afterschool successful to improve the program.
The AACA would modernize the 21st CCLC program to improve states' ability to effectively support quality afterschool programs, run more effective grant competitions and improve struggling programs. In addition, this legislation helps improve local programs by fostering better communication between local schools and programs, encouraging parental engagement in student learning, and improving the tracking of student progress.
Afterschool programs have such a diverse group of supporters--from law enforcement to the business community--because these vital programs help keep the children of working parents safe while enriching their learning experience and preparing them for the real world.
I urge my colleagues to join me and Senators MURKOWSKI and MURRAY in supporting the Afterschool for America's Children Act to ensure that 21st CCLC dollars are invested most efficiently in successful afterschool programs that keep children safe and help them learn.
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