Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., who was one of the first members of Congress to endorse then-candidate Donald Trump and helped found a “Trump Caucus,” is not happy that the White House has proposed zeroing out the $1 billion 21st Century Community Learning Centers program in its fiscal year 2018 budget, released Thursday.
The program, which helps cover the cost of after-school, summer learning, and extended day programs, provides nearly half the funding for SHINE, or “Schools and Homes In Education,” an after-school program that operates in Barletta’s district, which includes Hazelton, Pa.
Barletta—who worked behind the scenes to make sure the program was authorized under the Every Student Succeeds Act—is not happy about the proposed cut. In fact, he teamed up with Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., on a letter to Mick Mulvaney, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, asking him to restore the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program.
Later Thursday, Mulvaney was asked about the program during a briefing with White House reporters. He said he wasn’t familiar with SHINE (or it would seem, 21st Century Community Learning Centers). But he said that after-school programs in general don’t have a great track record.
“They’re supposed to be educational programs, right? That’s what they’re supposed to do. They’re supposed to help kids who don’t get fed at home get fed so they do better in school,” Mulvaney said. “Guess what? There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re actually doing that. There’s no demonstrable evidence of actually helping results, helping kids do better in school. ... The way we justified it was [are] these programs going to help these kids do better in school and get better jobs. And we can’t prove that that’s happening.”
But Henderson Lewis, the superintendent of the New Orleans School System sees things differently. His district is nearly all charter schools, so he was happy to see an emphasis on public school choice in the budget. But he worries that the decision to cut the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program could hurt many of his students who are benefitting from increased learning time.
“Being able to even extend the school day allowed our students to be in a safe place and be engaged,” Lewis said in an interview, and to try new things, even Zumba classes.
Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., talks with reporters after a meeting in November with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York.--Evan Vucci/AP-File