Murkowski, Smith Introduce Bill to Extend Important Flexibility and Funding to After School Programs

Will help afterschool programs support students and parents struggling with online learning during the school day.

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program provides competitive grants to school districts, community based organizations, Indian tribes, and tribal organizations that provide supplemental academic and enrichment activities for students during non-school hours or periods when schools are not in session. The value of 21st CCLC-funded afterschool programs is well-established, ensuring children have an opportunity to access engaging learning activities while giving working parents peace of mind that their kids are safe when school is out. Unfortunately, 21st CCLC programs have been limited in their ability to support students whose schools are offering online-only or hybrid instruction during the COVID-19 health emergency. U.S, Senate Afterschool Caucus Co-Chairs, Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Tina Smith (D-MN), introduced the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020 to ensure that these students can receive the support they need to succeed. The bill also includes funding to help programs meet state and local health mandates.

“21st Century Community Learning Centers have provided high-quality educational programming for over 20 years, inspiring students of all ages to learn, grow, and succeed. Through my roles on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee, I’ve been a strong and consistent advocate for the 21st CCLC program. However, grantees have been unable to use the funding we’ve secured to deliver school-day support to students who have transitioned to virtual learning—a significant disservice to not only children, but also their parents,” said Senator Murkowski. “COVID-19 has been a major adjustment for everyone, but particularly for our students, teachers, and parents. We must ensure that our learning environments have the flexibility, support, and safety precautions needed to navigate this difficult time. This legislation is incredibly significant for families in Alaska and across the nation, helping to ensure that all students who are taking part in remote learning continue to receive the support and resources they need to succeed.”

"During the pandemic, many afterschool programs have gone above and beyond to support students and families," said Senator Smith. "Our bipartisan legislation will support and build upon this great work. It will help afterschoool programs provide in-person and virtual services during the day to fill-in gaps in students' hybrid or distance learning schedules. It will also require afterschool programs to follow local public health guidelines, and help them get cleaning, sanitation and PPE supplies. I’m glad to support afterschool programs and will continue to promote them in Minnesota and across the country.”

“Afterschool programs have stepped up to meet the growing academic and social-emotional needs of students caused by the pandemic. The 21st Century Community Learning Center Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020 addresses the immediate need for great flexibility so afterschool programs can continue to support student academic achievement. This bill provides critical funding to ensure afterschool programs can expand hours of service, hire additional staff to maintain social distancing, and to pay for cleaning, sanitation, and PPE supplies to mitigate against the spread of the virus. The Alaska Afterschool Network applauds Senator Murkowski for her continued leadership in ensuring Alaska’s most vulnerable students have access to these critical afterschool programs during this national public health crisis,” said Thomas Azzarella, Director of Alaska Afterschool Network.

“This bill will allow our 21st CCLC programs to focus their attention on supporting students and families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We are grateful to Senator Murkowski for her leadership on issues facing Alaska’s students,” said Alaska Education Commissioner Dr. Michael Johnson.

“Introduction of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020 in the U.S. Senate offers hope to students and families at a time when many are struggling terribly with school closures and adjustments caused by the pandemic. This bill would allow out-of-schooltime programs to do more to help families meet the unprecedented challenges they face today by stepping in to keep kids safe and help them learn. We are especially pleased that it provides both the flexibility and funding afterschool programs need to provide more help. We commend Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) for introducing this legislation and urge Senate leaders to make its passage a priority. The House passed a version of it last month. Our country’s students, families, and schools will be better off when the Senate does the same,” said Jodi Grant, Executive Director of the Afterschool Alliance.

"Bipartisan Policy Center Action applauds the work by Senator Murkowski and Senator Smith to provide flexibility and funding to the 21st Century Community Learning Center Program. As rotating school schedules, online instruction, and periodic closures are commonplace across the country while the nation continues to combat the spread of the coronavirus, working parents need safe, supervised care arrangements for their young children while they are not in school. The 21st Century Program fills a crucial need for families during these unprecedented times. This bipartisan legislation will provide the flexibility needed to help parents get the care they need, and ensure children receive consistent academic assistance needed to thrive,” said Michele Stockwell, Executive Director of Bipartisan Policy Center Action.

“During this unprecedented time, access to supervised learning and educational support at Boys & Girls Clubs is even more critical to kids and families,” said Jim Clark, President and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of America. “We applaud Senators Murkowski and Smith for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020. The support will be critical to offset education disruptions that can increase learning loss, and provide needed flexibility for 21st Century Community Learning Centers programs providing full day virtual learning support.“

Bill Highlights:

  • Allows 21st CCLC programs to provide services, virtually or in-person, to students during the school day if the students are not getting full-time in-person instruction in school.
  • Requires 21st CCLC programs to follow health mandates and to submit an addendum of their application to their State education agency outlining how they’re going to provide services during the school day and comply with the health mandates.
  • Authorizes and appropriates $1.2 billion to help these programs provide additional hours of service, hire more staff to maintain social distancing, and pay for cleaning, sanitization, and PPE supplies.

For the full bill text, click here.