President Donald Trump’s “America First” federal-budget blueprint, released last month, stands to undermine one of the nation’s most successful K-12 learning programs. The president’s suggested funding cuts would take away resources that are critical to the academic success and healthy development of our most vulnerable students.
The Trump administration has proposed eliminating the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program—the only source of federal funding, an annual $1.1 billion, for after-school and summer programs. Since the 1990s, the program has funded nearly 9,600 centers nationwide—most located in schools in high-poverty communities. This measure would affect the more than 1 million children now enrolled in federally financed programs across the country.
In rationalizing the proposed cut, Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget chief, claimed there is “no demonstrable evidence” that after-school programs, designed to help low-income children do better in school, are successful. Whether administration officials are consciously rejecting evidence or just alarmingly uninformed, they are completely wrong.
On the contrary, after-school and summer learning programs are a highly effective and cost-efficient way to maintain the educational progress students make during the school year. A 2008 study by the Harvard Family Research Project confirmed that participation in after-school programs was associated with a host of positive outcomes: better attitudes toward school; higher school attendance; lower dropout rates; better test scores and grades; and improved homework completion.