Committee for Children Blog

Out-of-School Time and Social-Emotional Learning: A Federal Policy & Funding Review

Children walking after school for out-of-school time

We’ve updated this post, originally written by guest blogger Erik Peterson, as a year-end review. Erik is vice president of policy for the Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit public awareness and advocacy organization working to ensure that all children and youth have access to quality after-school and summer learning programs, from which some of this material is taken.

With the first session of the 116th Congress nearing its end, it’s a good time for an update on federal policy related to social-emotional learning (SEL). Let’s look at the funding status of a few key federal programs that support SEL through after-school programs, as well as recent federal legislation.

Federal Funding for SEL and After-School Care

After passing a stop-gap continuing resolution (CR) on November 21, Congress is trying to finalize federal funding for FY2020 by December 20th, when the CR expires. Two funding areas affect social-emotional development in particular:

  • Late in November, an agreement was reportedly reached on overall levels for spending bills, including that for the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education (LHHS-Ed) bill. The LHHS-Ed bill funds 21st Century Community Learning Centers and other key supports for social and emotional learning both during the school day and in out-of-school time.
  • Congress was able to include some additional funding for the US Census to allow the Department of Commerce to begin the process for the 2020 census, which has implications for how critical programs that serve kids will be funded. This had been a concern under the existing CR.

Between now and December 20, Congress will continue to work to finalize spending for FY2020. The primary challenge in the appropriations process was disagreement over several billion dollars for the President’s proposed southern border wall. That debate has prevented the House and Senate from agreeing to funding levels for numerous spending bills. Appropriators are now working hard to pass several spending bills by December 20 to avoid either another CR or a government shutdown.

As a reminder, it’s useful to take a look at the House’s funding levels for a few key funding streams that support SEL both in and out of school, as appropriators work through what the ultimate spending levels could be:

  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers: Current funding level is $1.222 billion; the proposed House level: $1.322 billion—a $100 million increase. Through a competitive funding process in each state, this money funds local school- and community-based after-school and summer-learning programs that focus on positive youth development and SEL.
  • Title IV Full Service Community Schools: The House bill provides $40 million, an increase from $17.5 million, to provide comprehensive services and expand evidence-based models that meet the holistic needs of children, families, and communities.
  • Title IV Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) Grants: The proposed $1.3 billion marks an increase of $150 million above the 2019 level. SSAE funds, established under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), support activities that provide students with a well-rounded education, ensure safe and supportive learning environments, and use technology to improve instruction.
  • Career, Technical Education (CTE): $1.3 billion, an increase of 3 percent, would go to implementation of the Perkins V CTE legislation that passed last year, focusing on employability skills.

The House LHHS-Ed bill also funds programs that address SEL within the Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies:

  • Child Care and Development Block Grant: $7.7 billion, an increase of $2.4 billion. In addition to supporting child care for children up to age five, the funds go to after-school programs that focus on health and safety for nearly a million children.
  • Community Services Block Grant: $760 million, an increase of $35 million. These funds can be used by local jurisdictions to support a number of programs including after-school and youth-development efforts.
  • Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program: $110 million, an increase of $9 million above the fiscal year 2019 level. This evidence-based program supports after-school pregnancy prevention programs.
  • Various mental health resources for children and youth, including $84 million for Project AWARE, an increase of $13 million; and $71 million for the National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative, an increase of $7 million.
  • Corporation for National and Community Service: $1.14 billion, an increase of $55 million above the 2019 level. This group supports AmeriCorps and VISTA, which are key assets for hundreds of after-school SEL programs.
  • Youth Mentoring Initiative: $100 million to increase opportunities for youth to have mentors and improve the quality of the mentoring they receive.

Of note, the bill provides $260 million for a Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) initiative to support SEL and “whole child” approaches to education. The bill provides:

  • $170 million within the Education Innovation and Research program to go toward grants for evidence-based, field-initiated innovations that address student social, emotional, and cognitive needs
  • $25 million within the Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) grant program for teacher professional development and pathways into teaching that provide a strong foundation in child development and learning, including skills for implementing SEL strategies
  • $25 million within the School Safety National Activities program to make schools safer through a new competition that will help local educational agencies (LEAs) directly increase the number of mental health and child development experts in schools. The $40 million for community schools is also included in the SEL initiative

Advocates are working diligently to support these priorities in the Senate bill, now that negotiations between House and Senate appropriators are taking place in earnest.  

Federal Legislation on SEL and Out-of-School Time

Though the appropriations process may take up much of the oxygen for Congress this month, it’s worth reviewing the legislation introduced so far this year that covers the intersection of SEL and out-of-school time, because these could advance in the second session of the 116th Congress, in the 2020 calendar year.

  • RISE from Trauma Act (S 1770/HR 3180): This bipartisan, bicameral legislation (full summary) addresses community trauma, adds more training for a trauma-informed workforce, and increases trauma-informed services for high-risk populations (to include community-based providers). It “includes provisions to support local coordinating and action bodies to address community trauma and a Performance Partnership Pilot that would test programs to braid funding to increase trauma-informed services for high-risk populations. The bill authorizes $50 million over four years (2020-23) in grants not to exceed $4 million to ‘state, county, local, or Indian tribe or tribal organizations…or nonprofit private entities for demonstration projects to enable such entitles to act as coordinating bodies to address community trauma.’ . . . Workforce enhancement to increase the number of trained practitioners to provide trauma-informed mental health services to children [is also included].”1
  • Mental Health Services for Students Act of 2019 (S 1122/HR 1109): This legislation “would increase access to evidence-based comprehensive mental health programs for the nation’s youth in local schools and communities. The bill would build on youth-focused programs that incorporate promising practices in education, social services, local primary health care, and trauma-informed behavioral health care to help communities take action to help youth and adolescents in need.”2
  • Success in the Middle Act of 2019 (S 1704/HR 3089): This bill “provide[s] grants to states to ensure that all students in the middle grades are taught an academically rigorous curriculum with effective supports so that students complete the middle grades prepared for success in secondary school and postsecondary endeavors, including social and emotional supports, and to improve State and local educational agency policies and programs relating to the academic achievement of students in the middle grades, to develop and implement effective middle grades models for struggling students, and for other purposes.”3
  • PREP Act of 2019 (S 752): The bipartisan bill would “expand the definition of ‘high need’ districts under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to include those experiencing teacher shortages in rural communities as well as in areas like special education, English language, science, technology, engineering, math, and CTE [career and technical education], to allow for access to additional support and improvement. It would also encourage school districts to create partnerships, including Grow Your Own programs, with local community colleges and universities to ensure their programs are educating future teachers in areas where there is a shortage of educators. It would increase access to teacher and school leader residency programs and preparation training. And it requires states to identify areas of teacher or school leader shortages by subject across public schools and use that data to target their efforts.”4

How You Can Add Your Support

As an advocate of social-emotional learning and after-school programs, you can contact your senators to convey your support for these initiatives.

Research References