09/26/2011 05:47 pm ET | Updated Nov 26, 2011

Congress on More Learning Time

Recently a group of senators introduced five bills to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that included the "Empowering Local Educational Decision Making Act." This proposed bill eliminates dedicated federal funding for expanded learning opportunities during summer and beyond the traditional school day -- those very experiences that we know help kids thrive.

The bill would consolidate the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program with 24 other programs into a diffuse block grant that does not ensure kids get any expanded learning opportunities. Yet over 75 percent, or $1.1 billion, of the $1.453 billion dollars allocated for this new block grant would come from the elimination of the 21CCLC program, which provides dedicated funds for summer and after-school programs.

Without knowing when Congress will act on re-authorizing ESEA, I'm joining Jennifer Peck of the Partnership for Children and Youth to sound a warning on this block grant proposal. Even at current funding levels, 21st CCLC falls short of meeting the need. Over 18 million parents say they would enroll their child in an after-school program if one were available to them. The block grant proposal also undermines the work of organizations like the Collaborative for Building After-School Systems, which is working to apply a decade's worth of research to strengthening 21CCLC programs to do even more to improve student outcomes.