New York State has submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Education for waiver from many of the regulations under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, also known in its current form as “No Child Left Behind”). One area in which states were allowed to request flexibility is to use 21st Century Community Learning Center (21CCLC) funds to extend the school day. When the state released a draft of the waiver application and invited public comment in January, TASC advocated to the state, submitting a letter, asking for clarity about their plans for 21CCLC funds. We believe that models that expand the school day to produce a more well-rounded curriculum and to ensure engaging and personalized instruction with school/community partnership are the right way to deliver on the promise of public education.
I’m pleased that the submitted waiver application does include much clearer language. Specifically:
> Funds can be used for before school, after school, summer learning and ELT.
> School/community partnerships are required.
> Either partner can be the lead fiscal agent.
> The State will allow 21CCLC funds to provide additional hours of learning time as well as additional collaborative planning time and professional development for teachers and community partners.
> Programs should enrich and complement, not duplicate, what is happening during the traditional school day.
> A percentage of 21CCLC funds will be allocated to struggling schools that the state designates as “Priority Schools” but the State Education Department will ensure that funds will also be available to support schools not in Priority status.
> All Priority Schools will incorporate expanded learning opportunities into their reform plans.
With these changes, New York State’s waiver will open the door to new models of school-community partnership, while allowing existing effective models to continue. Schools and their partners should start thinking now about what they might like to do in the coming year if they had 21CCLC funds, because a new RFP for 21st Century funding is expected to be released in late Spring.