21st Century Community Learning Centers
21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) is the only federal funding stream that is dedicated exclusively to before-school, afterschool and summer programs. The U.S. Department of Education awards money to state departments of education who then have a competitive grant process to issue the funds locally. The grant program is designed to target low-income students in low-performing schools in an effort to provide a safe and supportive space for children and youth to engage in high-quality learning enrichment. According to the Afterschool Alliance, 22 million young people are eligible to participate in a 21st CCLC program, but just 1.6 million students actually attend one.
21st CCLC Providing a Critical Financial Foundation
21st CCLC is the most critical funding stream available for afterschool learning opportunities in small and rural communities. In many communities, these dollars provide the start-up money to establish an afterschool program.
However, the 21st CCLC program was not designed to be a sustained source of program funding. In many states, there is a limit to the number of years a program can receive this funding, and over time, the amount decreases. Even though the dollars may not be permanent, they provide a critical financial foundation for afterschool programs.
Once a program is established using 21st CCLC funding, it has a foundation on which to create a braided funding approach. Communities such as Umatilla, Ore., have been able to leverage other state and federal funding streams to support programming alongside funding from other foundation grants. These resources have helped to expand offerings to include a STEM component. Other communities like Falls City, Ore., have leveraged their statewide afterschool network to receive support around sustainability.
21st CCLC Supports
In addition to being the financial backbone of many small and rural communities’ afterschool programs, the 21st CCLC program provides professional development and data support. The 21st CCLC program offers guidelines for quality programming, hosts an annual conference to support grant recipients and supports the Profile and Performance Information Collection System (PPICS), which is a system that collects program data from every 21st CCLC program across the country.
Providers are able to input their program data into the PPICS system and also run reports to help them better understand their program’s participants and performance on a number of different indicators.
The 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant program is essential to ensuring access to high-quality afterschool and summer learning opportunities for children and youth in small and rural communities. Without these dollars, children and youth across the country would be left without enriching learning opportunities, thereby widening the opportunity gap.