CLINTON — Afterschool staff/students from Clinton returned home late last week after a two-day visit to Washington, D.C., where they met with members of Congress including Sen. Charles Grassley and Rep. Bruce Braley to advocate for more funding for afterschool programs.

This visit was part of the eighth annual Afterschool for All Challenge, which is sponsored by the National Afterschool Alliance.

Loras Osterhaus, Clinton Afterschool director, said the visit was a “valuable chance to discuss the many ways afterschool programs strengthen families and our community.”

Osterhaus was one of 18 leaders from 15 states selected to be 2008-2009 Afterschool Ambassadors, appointed by the Afterschool Alliance last summer. The Afterschool Ambassador, appointed by the Afterschool Alliance, is to carry the message of afterschool’s importance to their communities and states.

On the trip with Osterhaus were Patricia Peterson, Afterschool Site Facilitator at Whittier Elementary, and Michelle Hagerman, Afterschool Site Facilitator at Washington Middle School. As part of the Afterschool for All Challenge, the Afterschool Alliance sponsored a Breakfast of Champions at which advocates from across the country were honored for their support of afterschool. Also appearing at the Breakfast were TV Judge Glenda Hatchett and Chicago First Lady Maggie Daley. Other notables at this breakfast were U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Sen. Dick Durbin from Illinois.

Participants attending the Challenge then fanned out across Capitol Hill for more than 100 meetings with members of Congress and/or their aides. Osterhaus, Petersen and Hagerman, along with afterschool representatives from Sioux City, met with Braley, Rep. Tom Latham and the education staffer for Rep. Steve King. The group also met with the Educational Liaison for Sen. Tom Harkin and with Grassley and his education staff.

The goal of the visit was to increase federal funding for afterschool programs and educate lawmakers about the important work being done in these programs. The Senate has adopted a call for increased funding, from the current $1.1 billion, up to the $2.5 billion authorized for 21st Century Community Learning Centers — the chief federal funding stream for afterschool programs. Whether those additional dollars are actually appropriated is uncertain as the budget process is just beginning.

In Clinton Community Schools, the 21st CCLC grant supports six sites, four elementary, one middle school and one alternative high school program, but other applicants were turned down because there were not enough funds available. The Afterschool Alliance, and all afterschool advocates are urging Congress to increase funding for afterschool programs.

During the Challenge, the Afterschool Alliance released the results of new research on afterschool funding nationwide. The Roadmap to Afterschool for All (www.afterschoolalliance.org) sets forth a plan to expand afterschool programming so that all children who need it have access. The plan calls for increased contributions from all sectors — local, state and federal government, as well as the business and philanthropic communities.

The plan calls on the federal government to lead the way, by increasing its current contribution of about 11 percent.

At the present time the local program continues to seek additional funding to help maintain and expand programs across the district.

There are many children on a waiting list. Increased funding would allow many of these children to participate in the local afterschool programs. The group will continue to explore funding at different levels including federal, state and private funding so that more youths can participate in afterschool programs.

The Afterschool Alliance is a nonprofit public awareness and advocacy organization working to ensure that all children and youth have access to quality afterschool programs.

For more information on the Afterschool Alliance visit their Web site at www.afterschoolalliance.org.

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