21st Century Community Learning Centers

Photo by Wavebreakmedia/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Wavebreakmedia/iStock / Getty Images

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative is the only federal funding source dedicated exclusively to afterschool programs. The No Child Left Behind Act reauthorized 21st CCLC in 2002, transferring the administration of the grants from the U.S. Department of Education to the state education agencies. The program was again reauthorized in 2015 in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Each state receives funds based on its share of Title I funding for low-income students. Grants support afterschool programs that provide the following services to students attending high-poverty, low-performing schools:

  • Academic enrichment activities that can help students meet state and local achievement standards.
  • A broad array of additional services designed to reinforce and complement the regular academic program, such as: drug and violence prevention programs, career and technical programs, counseling programs, art, music, and recreation programs, STEM programs, and character education programs.
  • Literacy and related educational development services to the families of children who are served in the program. (U.S. Department of Education, 2003)

Unmet Demand

Parents across America want afterschool and summer programs for their children, but cost and lack of available programs are standing in their way. For every child in an afterschool program, two are waiting to get in. And in rural communities, three children are waiting for every child enrolled. 21st Century Community Learning Center grants are the only federal funding source dedicated exclusively to providing afterschool and summer learning opportunities for children and youth. Over the last 10 years, unmet demand for afterschool grew by 20 percent, but funding has remained flat. More than 21 million youth are eligible to attend Community Learning Centers, but funding allows only 1.6 million to participate.4,14 Only 1 in 3 requests for funding Community Learning Centers is awarded. Over the last 10 years, $4 billion in local grant requests were denied because of intense competition and lack of adequate federal funding.

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