Education Ending at the Bell

AfterschoolVERMONT - Local area after school programs are in risk of losing the vital funding they need to help further students.

Trump’s proposed education budget for 2018 would “eliminate the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which supports before and after school programs as well as summer programs.” 

Donna Gaston, Program Director of the Extended Learning Opportunities program for the Caledonia Central Supervisory Union (CCSU), said cutting this program could have a catastrophic impact on schools in this area. 

"Without the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant (CCLC), the after school programs at Barnet, Danville, Peacham and Walden will totally cease to exist or exist only in a very limited manner,”said Gaston. "Without the federal funding we will not be able to pay teachers and other providers to offer these classes.”

The Vermont Department of Education reports over 13 thousand students utilize these programs across the state each year. In the Northeast Kingdom, small schools see a large number of their students attending their after school or summer programs:

Barnet:  84 out of 174 students 

Danville:  73 out of 269 students 

Peacham:  30 out of 46 students 

Walden:  38 out of 75 students  

Although only 36% of Vermont Public schools receive funding from the grant, programs at local schools are largely funded by the 21st CCLC grant.

 “This year 75% of our funding comes from the grant, next year it will be reduced to 65% and the following year it will be a maximum of 50%, if our application for continued funding is accepted. In this rural area we do not have resources without our communities to replace this funding,” explained Gaston. 

Trump’s push to cut the funding would result in a $1.2 billion decrease in educational spending from last year. In his “America First” budget, he offered an explanation for the cut, arguing "The programs lacks strong evidence of meeting its objectives, such as improving student achievement.”

 

This aligns with Trump’s mission to "lower costs to the taxpayer by reducing or eliminating funding for programs that are not effective, that duplicate other efforts, or that do not serve national needs."

Contrary to Trump’s belief, Gaston says that the programs serve a large purpose in the community. “We currently offer tutoring, academic support classes, classes in STEM and Literacy, and enrichment classes in art, music, etc. All of these support student learning,” she said.

NECAP test scores show that Vermont students who attend these programs regularly, perform better in Math and Language Arts. In 2013, 85% of regular attendees’ language arts scores stayed the same or increased and 82% for math. Statistics from the Vermont Agency of Education show that students attending these programs attend school more regularly. 

It is still unclear whether Trump’s budget will pass or not, but 21st CCLC State Coordinator Emanuel Betz says the budget still has a long way to go. 

“The 21c program has strong bi-partisan support in Congress and the Presidential ‘blueprint’ budget has many steps to go through before any of it becomes law and the political process is complex and varied,” Betz said. "There is a lot that will be played out.”

Even if the budget is passed, the impact won’t be felt for at least one year, as the federal education budget is forward funded by a year.