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Letter to the House of Representatives opposing conversion of afterschool grant program to individual vouchers - 03/10/08

March 10, 2008

Dear Representative:


On behalf of the National Education Association’s (NEA) 3.2 million members, we are writing to express strong opposition to the Bush Administration’s proposal to convert the current federal afterschool initiative, called 21st Century Community Learning Centers, into an unworkable voucher program with a catchy new name: 21st Century Learning Opportunities Scholarships.

For nearly 1.5 million children and their families, today’s 21st Century Community Centers provide peace of mind, safety and inspire learning. Their value has been tested and proven. According to the U.S. Department of Education, nearly half the children who regularly attend these centers raise their grades in reading/language arts and mathematics. Three-quarters complete more homework and participate more in class. Even the White House rates the current program “adequate.”

To justify the proposed change, the Administration cites deeply flawed data gathered nearly a decade ago, before the current afterschool program had even been established. At the same time, the Administration gives short shrift to evidence of the gains the current program has brought — in academic achievement as well as parental involvement. 

The Administration’s proposed afterschool voucher program would undermine public, private, community and faith-based partnerships that are working well. It would   destabilize existing programs,   make their funding more precarious than it already is, and leave millions of children — those most in need of afterschool care and least able to afford it — with no place to go when the school day ends.

There’s an old saying: If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. We urge you to say “no” to the Adminstration’s voucher proposal and stick with the current approach to afterschool care.       

Sincerely,

Diane Shust                                                                             
Director of Government Relations

Randall Moody
Manager of Federal Advocacy