Texas After-School Advocates Go To Washington

HOUSTON – More than 500 after-school supporters have returned from their May 23-24 visit to Washington where they met with members of Congress as part of their participation in the fifth annual Afterschool for All Challenge. 

Shannon Bishop, director of the Cooperative for After-School Enrichment, or CASE, a Harris County Department of Education division, declared the visit “successful and informative.”  Bishop is one of 15 Afterschool Ambassadors for 2005-2006 nationwide who were appointed by the Afterschool Alliance to carry the message of the importance of after-school programs to their communities and states.

Joining Bishop on the trip were Southwest Charter student (Sharpstown) Tony Ramirez and his mother Estela Pina, along with Southwest student Lucia Solorzano and Southwest after-school coordinator Lourdes Jiminez. CASE manages the after-school program at Southwest Charter.

Also attending the meetings were Twonda Thompson from the Mayor’s After-School Achievement Program; representatives from Houston Independent School District after-school programs; and other CASE staff members. As part of the Afterschool for All Challenge, the Afterschool Alliance and the National League of Cities co-sponsored a “Breakfast of Champions” at which mayors and city council members from across the country were honored for their support of after-school programs.

Participants then fanned out across Capitol Hill for more than 100 meetings with Members of Congress and their staff members. Bishop and her group met with Al Green (TX – 09) as well as staff representatives of Kay Bailey Hutchison, John Cornyn, John Culberson (TX – 07), Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX – 30)  and Henry Bonilla (TX – 23).

The goal of the visit was to educate lawmakers about the important work being done in after-school programs. The president’s proposed Fiscal Year 2007 budget freezes funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative – the chief federal funding stream for afterschool programs – at just under $1 billion.

That amount is less than half of what Congress and the President authorized in the landmark No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001. The resulting $1.5 billion shortfall is far short of the promise of NCLB and more than $20 million in real cuts to the funding provided in 2002. In Harris County, a 21st CCLC grants support 50 CASE project sites.

“It was inspiring to be surrounded by hundreds of men and women committed to providing meaningful afterschool opportunities for our kids,” said Bishop. “I know the commitment and enthusiasm made an impression on members of Congress and their aides. Representative Al Green said he would support full funding for after school, and we were very glad to hear it. Without that funding, after-school programs and the children and families they serve here and across the nation will suffer.”

The Afterschool for All Challenge was sponsored by the Afterschool Alliance and was held in conjunction with the National League of Cities’ Afterschool Summit.

The Afterschool Alliance is a nonprofit public awareness and advocacy organization supported by a group of public, private and nonprofit entities dedicated to ensuring that all children and youth have access to afterschool programs by 2010. More information, including statistics about after-school programs, is available at www.afterschoolalliance.org.

The National League of Cities is the nation’s oldest and largest organization devoted to strengthening and promoting cities as centers of opportunity, leadership and governance. The organization is a resource and advocate for 19,000 U.S. cities, towns and villages, which collectively serve 225 million people. To learn more, visit www.nlc.org.

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