U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who chairs the Senate Afterschool Caucus, today joined with Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Patty Murray (D-WA) to introduce the Afterschool for America's Children Act (S.326) to help children and families by investing in high-quality afterschool programs nationwide.
"When the school bell rings, too many of our children go home to empty houses because their parents work and cannot afford afterschool care," Senator Boxer said. "This bipartisan legislation will expand access to high-quality afterschool programs so that our kids have a safe and enriching environment from 3 to 6 p.m."
"Studies have shown that afterschool programs are an enormous net-positive for our children, in terms of the best usage of time, but more important than studies are real-world examples like the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program across Alaska," said Senator Murkowski. "Afterschool programs fill the time outside of the school day with additional constructive and educational opportunities -- instead of idle time, which can prove counterproductive -- and provides effective benchmarks to ensure the programs are done responsibly."
"I am proud to join with Senators Boxer and Murkowski in cosponsoring this bipartisan legislation that will help so many young people across America access safe and enriching afterschool programs," said Senator Patty Murray. "Afterschool programs are a proven way to improve academic performance, and we know that students who attend them are more likely to go to college and start off their lives on the right track."
Senators Mark Begich (D-AK) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) are also co-sponsors of the bill.
This legislation would reauthorize the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) program, which over the last decade has successfully provided millions of children with access to afterschool programs. During the 2010-2011 school year alone, more than 1.6 million children attended afterschool programs at these centers.
While the number of children participating in afterschool programs has been increasing, the unmet need for afterschool activities remains high. The 2009 report, America After 3pm, found that parents of 18.5 million children not currently participating in afterschool programs say they would enroll their children if a program were available to them.
Reauthorizing this program will ensure that children with working parents will continue to have a safe, well-rounded and enriching environment until the end of their parents' work day. The program provides enrichment activities to compliment regular academic activities and helps students, particularly those attending high-poverty and low-performing schools, meet state and local standards for core academic subjects such as reading and math.
The Afterschool for America's Children Act 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, it would enhance communication between local schools and afterschool programs to ensure afterschool activities complement the academic curriculum while encouraging parental engagement in student learning and improving the tracking of student progress.
Supporters of the bill include the Afterschool Alliance, National Parent Teacher Association, American Heart Association, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, First Focus Campaign for Children, National 4-H Council and YMCA of the USA. Senators Boxer, Murkowski and Murray introduced similar legislation in the 112th Congress.