U.S. Department of Education Issues and Seeks Input on Out-of-School Time Guidance

June 07, 2023
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Out-of-school time care for children is an integral component of the child care and early learning system. The 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program was established in 1994 to support academic enrichment, health and wellness activities, and additional services to school-age children in after- and before- school programs, as well as summer learning programs in every state. This important program is a lifeline for working families who need a safe, nurturing environment for their children that supports their development. The 21st CCLC program is the only federal funding stream solely dedicated to these purposes. 

For the first time in 20 years, child care and early learning stakeholders have an opportunity to weigh in on draft non-regulatory guidance regarding the 21st CCLC program recently updated by the U.S. Department of Education. This draft guidance supersedes previous guidance released in February 2003 and intends to provide additional clarity on existing program requirements for states as they strive to meet obligations under the 21st CCLC program. The guidance dives into an array of topics, including state allocations, state responsibilities, eligible entities for funding, use of funds, and evaluation and monitoring.  

CCAoA is pleased to see Question C-6 of the guidance strongly encourage collaboration and coordination between State Education Agencies (SEAs) and Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) lead agencies to provide quality programming in out-of-school time programs. While this is likely the case across many states, it’s important to have guidance that clearly and strongly encourages this kind of partnership across state lead agencies to support families. In their unique role as resource hubs for families, child care professionals and communities, Child Care Resource and Referral agencies (CCR&Rs) can specifically play a role in bridging collaboration efforts between the two state agencies to support the continuum of care for birth-to-school-age children. 

The guidance highlights that while the 21st CCLC and CCDF programs differ in eligibility and administration, both funding streams provide critical federal resources to support school-age children in out-of-school time care (CCDF funding can be used to fund child care assistance for children up to age 13). The guidance offers some suggestions for coordination and collaboration between the two state agencies, including jointly: 

  • Identifying geographic areas where the need is greatest for out-of-school time programming, and directing contracts and grants to those areas using CCDF funds to ensure program stability while extending access to those students who need help most.
  • Leveraging set-aside funding from both funding streams to coordinate quality improvement activities, including the delivery of professional development across all out-of-school time programs.
  • Harmonizing the licensing and monitoring requirements so programs and providers can more readily access funds under each program. 

CCAoA’s most recent analysis found that while there has been a modest growth in 2022 among child care centers, which has returned the overall system to pre-pandemic levels, the level of supply still falls short of the overall need across all age levels. The most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that in 2020-2021, 21st CCLC subgrants were provided to 10,652 centers and served nearly a million school-age students. Yet this only scratches the surface of overall demand. The Afterschool Alliance shares that only 1 in 3 funding requests are awarded due to a lack of adequate federal funding and nearly 25 million children are not attending an afterschool program, but would be if a program were available to them. States are encouraged to braid CCDF and 21st CCLC funding to maximize support as the guidance suggests, but both programs are woefully underfunded and insufficient to meet the care needs of families with school-age children. 

CCAoA will continue to monitor this guidance around the 21st CCLC programs as it moves through a public comment period. Interested partners and stakeholders, including CCR&Rs, are offered an opportunity to weigh in on the updated non-regulatory guidance by July 7, 2023 (deadline recently extended). Please submit any comments by emailing OESE.feedback@ed.gov. 

Topics: Policy & Advocacy

Diane Girouard

Written by Diane Girouard

Diane is currently the State Policy Analyst at Child Care Aware. Prior to this role, Diane was a policy analyst focused on child nutrition with the Food Research & Action Center. Diane also worked as a policy analyst for several years under both houses of the New York State Legislature on the education and higher education committees.