Addressing the Risk and Taking the Opportunity

It is such an exciting time in Michigan for expanded learning.  The recent recognition from the Governor’s Office that expanded learning is part of the answer to our 3rd grade reading dilemma was step one (and a result of many discussions and great partners.)  In his budget proposal being discussed now by the Legislature, he included $10 million to expand learning opportunity for kids in K-3.    In addition, the Governor proposed some serious increases in At-Risk funding for local districts to help them serve their most challenged students – specifically those who are having trouble reading by the 3rd grade and those eventually either not graduating at all, or graduating with limited college and career readiness, which could also open the door for more resource for evidenced expanded learning programming.  

Unfortunately, this good news is seriously tempered by the challenge before us in Congress.  Michigan has relied almost entirely on federal funds to support our expanded learning efforts through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) program.  This has been invaluable, in that it has allowed us to do a whole bunch of research, so we know a lot about what works in expanded learning.  One thing that works is to make sure that there is a consistent level of quality for programs that are funded, and that those programs have access to technical assistance and support.  That happens because CCLC funding is specifically targeted toward that program – it comes with some strings attached, and that’s a good thing. Those strings have allowed our expanded learning programs to grow their evidence and improve their practice.  At this point, Congress is talking about eliminating specific funding for CCLC, and best case scenario, rolling it back into grants that would go to local educational agencies to spend on any number of priorities.  Not pulling out that money specifically for CCLC, which results in quality, evaluated, supported before- and after school and summer learning programs is the wrong approach.

We need a strong CCLC program to help grow stronger state investment for expanded learning – both depend on the other.  Join MASP and many advocates across the country in talking with your U.S. Representative and our U.S. Senators.  Let them know that there is value to the CCLC program the way that it is, and if you are a CCLC grantee, invite them over and show them why.  OR, if you aren’t a grantee, invite them over and show them what could be done if there was more funding for that program to go around.

Also join us in talking with your Michigan Representative and Senator.  Let them know that it is high time that Michigan put some state investment in evidenced practice, like yours.  Invite them over and show them how your program helps kids read by the 3rd grade, and helps families help their own children learn.   Have them talk with students who can tell them directly how your programs are working with their schools so they will be more college and career ready.

This guest blog was written by Matt Gillard, President & CEO of Michigan’sChildren, the only statewide independent voice working to ensure that publicpolicies are made in the best interest of children from cradle to career. Matt also serves as the Chair of the MASP Public Policy Committee.