Preparing for the 117th Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration
by Every Hour Counts
The new year brings fresh, new opportunities for Every Hour Counts to drive change in Washington — the kind of change that will increase opportunities and resources for young people, families, and communities across the country.
This change could not be more necessary. As the National Urban League’s Hal Smith shares in The Wallace Foundation’s blog, Keeping a Focus on Equity as Schools Reopen During the Pandemic, “There is no hiding the impact of inequity on education now. Inequity of food security, of housing, social economic status, racism, access to laptops and high-speed internet access — those have been made clear.”
Afterschool intermediary organizations and partners are committed to mitigating these inequities, which is why we’ve hit the ground running, building relationships with the 117th Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration to advocate in support of our network’s platform and expand access to high-quality learning opportunities for young people, especially those hit hardest by COVID-19 and systemic racism.
Shaping Our Policy Priorities
Throughout the summer of 2020, our network began strategizing for the incoming Congress, determining our policy priorities and using them to shape our transition memo. We shared the pressing issues with Members of Congress and the incoming Administration’s agency review teams to address the ongoing needs of the 28 communities in our coalition.
Our policy priorities include:
· COVID relief: We encouraged both the incoming Biden-Harris Administration and the incoming Congress to prioritize giving relief to those most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This relief includes requests for the Biden Administration and/or Congress to:
o Ensure that youth and part time workers are eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) in any COVID-19 relief package;
o Develop guidance to support out-of-school time providers as partners in systemic solutions to educational inequities that the pandemic has worsened;
o Include intermediaries and summer and afterschool experts in panels, input sessions and task forces focused on education-related COVID responses and racial equity issues;
o Develop a strategic task force for a learning-based strategy that advances youth development and social and emotional growth, and addresses learning inequities and learning loss; and
o Provide additional funding for the Nita M. Lowey 21stCentury Community Learning Center (CCLC) program ($500 million) and State, local and national nonprofit organizations ($50 billion).
· Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget priorities: Separate from the COVID-19 relief efforts, our network supports bold investments in the programs that serve our nation’s youth and the needs of the whole child. These programs include the:
o 21stCCLC program;
o Corporation of National and Community Service (CNCS) and AmeriCorps State and National Program;
o Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program;
o Social Innovation Fund (SIF);
o The Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) Grant; and
o ESEA Title I and Title II.
· Other legislative priorities: Every Hour Counts continues to advocate for Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Representative David Ciccilline’s (D-RI) Community Partnerships in Education Act, which will support increased resources and continuous improvement for intermediaries.
· Fitting into the big picture: Every Hour Counts’ mission is to increase expanded learning opportunities for all students, especially those from underserved communities. Our network serves young people whose lives are impacted by systemic racism, food and housing insecurities, and other urgent issues. Through our advocacy efforts, we aim to support the range of challenges that Federal policy should address.
Elevating Smart Policy
Even the most passionate advocates will experience difficulties accomplishing their policy goals if they do not understand how their policy asks fit into the overall political landscape. Our network is elevating smart policy that increases access to high-quality afterschool opportunities and strengthens the role of intermediaries in addressing learning needs during and after the pandemic.
· Our policy recommendations connect with racial equity issues and other key areas that have the opportunity provide a more equitable environment for students to learn and thrive, both in and outside of school.
· Every Hour Counts isn’t reinventing the wheel. Instead, we’re using evidence-based practices to push for the policies that are proven to most help students and families.
· Our network also respects that the incoming Congress and Administration are seeking to implement their ideas to address the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthen out-of-school learning opportunities. We stand ready to build upon this work and provide the insight and expertise that will elevate legislative and regulatory efforts to best serve our communities.
Impacting Change from the Ground Up
Although Federal policy gets decided in Washington, the work begins at the local level. Our network and the community-based organizations they partner with can effect change from the ground up:
· Find a local championwho can carry your message: Local leaders, including school principals, activists or parents, can provide the personal perspective that will resonate with policymakers from city council to Congress and make issues come to life in a way that data cannot. As Hal Smith shares in The Wallace Foundation’s blog, “Having parents, caregivers, stakeholders and even students themselves, where possible, be a part of the planning, the implementation, and most importantly a part of the reflection, is essential.”
· Engage Federal delegations: Issue education happens at the local, State and Federal levels. Local advocates have the power to help drive agendas on the Federal level because members of Congress are especially engaged issues that matter to their constituents.
· Put your message into action through non-partisan activities: Policy change doesn’t happen overnight. It takes persistence and requires maintaining relationships with policymakers on all levels. As an advocate, make sure you “refresh the feed” for lawmakers by sharing news about your organization, providing updates on your needs and including timely information about what your organization is up to.
· Keep the energy up!: Successful advocates know that their work is year-round. Make sure you are always working towards accomplishing one piece of your agenda. Elections come and go, but advocacy never stops.
Every Hour Counts looks forward to sharing more updates from our network’s advocacy efforts.
Additional resource to support capacity building for policy
The blog post, The CARES Act: Five Things That School and District Leaders Need to Know Now, prepared for The Wallace Foundation by EducationCounsel, highlights five things that school and district leaders, along with nonprofits, should keep in mind when it comes to major education provisions in the CARES Act.