Barletta Discusses Importance of Afterschool Programs during Hearing on Education Reform

Jul 18, 2017
Press Release
Expert Testifies That Proven Afterschool Programs, Like SHINE, Are Crucial Part of Local Approach to Education

WASHINGTON – During today’s House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing exploring state and local implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) highlighted how afterschool programs, like the SHINE afterschool program in northeast Pennsylvania, are contributing to student success, and questioned how state ESSA plans can incorporate afterschool opportunities.  Barletta successfully restored funding for afterschool programs in ESSA.

ESSA was signed into law in December 2015 to replace the No Child Left Behind Act and restore state and local control of public education.  The law fully takes effect for the upcoming 2017-2018 academic year.  Today’s hearing focused on how states and local stakeholders are planning to implement the policy changes included in ESSA.

“We know that chronic absenteeism negatively affects student success, and that this has led some states to propose absenteeism as an additional accountability measure in their state ESSA plans,” Barletta said.  “We also know there is evidence that quality afterschool and summer learning programs are cost-effective strategies in increasing student attendance at all grade levels.  I’ve seen this firsthand through an afterschool organization in my district – the SHINE program.”

Barletta questioned Dr. Gail Pletnick, Superintendent of Dysart Unified School District in Surprise, Arizona, about how state ESSA plans may be encouraging school districts to provide afterschool and summer learning opportunities to their students.

Pletnick said that afterschool programs are having a positive impact on students’ learning and also encouraging parents to get more involved with their child’s education.

“With our underserved populations especially, having those afterschool opportunities serves many purposes, but certainly engages students in their learning,” Pletnick said.  “We have opportunities to have coding, to have STEM – those really critical skills that students enjoy being a part of.  What we have also seen through those programs is increased parent involvement because they are able to engage with their students in those activities.  Those types of programs are having a positive impact academically.”

After the original House version of the bill replacing No Child Left Behind eliminated funding for the 21 Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program, which provides federal funding for afterschool programs, Barletta successfully worked to restore its funding.  The law also includes a Barletta amendment that directs school districts to report to state agencies on the use of federal funds for afterschool activities to further demonstrate the importance of such programs.

Barletta, a member of the Education and Workforce Committee and father of two daughters who are teachers, has long championed SHINE, or “Schools and Homes In Education,” in Carbon, Schuylkill, and Luzerne counties.  During the hearing, Barletta highlighted SHINE’s proven track record of improving students’ attendance and learning.  According to a recent study, 92 percent of SHINE students had exceptionally good or satisfactory school attendance, 97 percent of students indicated they were excited about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), and the number of students who said they would like to study math or science in college increased by 14 percent.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” Barletta said.  “When students are excited about learning, they show up for class and feel personally invested in their education, setting themselves up for success down the road.”

As a result of his leadership in saving federal funding for afterschool programs, Barletta was the only House member to receive the 2016 Congressional Voice for Children Award from the National Parent Teacher Association.  Barletta was also named an “Afterschool Hero” by the Afterschool Alliance, and earlier this year, the Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network named him an Afterschool Champion for his commitment, dedication, and outstanding work on learning programs.