LANGHORNE, PA—Today, September 4th, 2020, Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Susan Wild (PA-07), Don Young (AK-00), Susan Bonamici (OR-01), Jeff Van Drew (NJ-02), and Dwight Evans (PA-03), introduced the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020, a bipartisan bill to help expand access to child care services through the remainder of the COVID-19 emergency. Because of the health challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many school districts will provide academic instruction through remote or hybrid learning models this school year. Estimates suggest that this Fall, nearly 24 million workers with children between the ages of 6 and 14 will have no at-home child care option.
This bill creates new, short-term, flexible grant programs for 21st Century Community Learning Centers – the only federally funded initiative dedicated to supporting afterschool, before-school, and summer learning programs – to expand their operations to include programs during school hours. These learning centers, typically operated out of Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs, schools, or other community centers, have existing, trusted partnerships with the school districts they serve. This legislation would leverage those partnerships to create options for families and cultivate environments in which K-12 students could receive additional academic support, school-aged children could receive safe care during the day, and working parents would be able to return to and stay in the workforce.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives, and our school districts need immediate relief. We need to give school districts maximum flexibility to access relief funds so that our community can support students, faculty, and staff. Congress must ensure that our school districts can provide the best quality of education during these turbulent times,” Fitzpatrick said. “This bipartisan legislation will give 21st Century Community Learning Centers short-term flexibility for the upcoming school year to provide services to K-12 students during traditional school hours. Every student deserves a quality education, and this bill will help our students receive the academic support and resources they need to reach their full potential.”
“This week, thousands of students throughout my community began their school year, and whether their schools have adopted remote, hybrid, or in-person learning models, parents and children are both adjusting to a new normal,” Wild said. “I’ve heard from hundreds of parents across my community concerned about how they will tackle this school year – how they find affordable child care, how they make sure their children don’t fall academically behind, and how they get back to work. Right now, they need options and flexibility – and without it, our students, our workers, and our economy will all pay the price. I’m proud that this bill creates those flexible, affordable child care options to both develop safe, structured learning environments for our students to succeed and support parents as they can get back to work.”
"Now more than ever, 21st Century Community Learning Centers play a critical role in supporting our children through academic enrichment and access to engaging and safe learning environments,” Young said. “Normally, the program focuses on initiatives that occur after school, but these are anything but normal times. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way our children learn, and we must ensure that this critical grant program can adapt. Educators, administrators, and the students they teach need and deserve funding flexibility so that learning can continue during this public health crisis. I am proud to join Congresswoman Susan Wild in introducing the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Relief Act. This crucial legislation takes the steps necessary to ensure that the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program works for students in Alaska and across the country. As Co-Chair of the House Afterschool Caucus, I will continue fighting to ensure that children, parents, and teachers have the support needed to come out of this stronger than ever before."
“These are very challenging times. Parents wrestle with how to juggle remote learning for their children while they struggle to find safe and affordable child care options and work or run a business,” Bonamici said. “I am pleased to support additional flexibility for the Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers program to help provide low-income, school-aged children with a safe, supportive, and academically enriching environment.”
This legislation is endorsed by the Afterschool Alliance, After-School All-Stars, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Classroom, Inc., Girls, Inc., National Association of Elementary School Principals, Forum for Youth Investment, and National AfterSchool Association.
The full text of the bill can be found here.