Ask your senator to restore funding to Learn and Serve America

May 12, 2022

The Coalition for Service-Learning, which Campus Compact is a part of, has been advocating for federal funding for service-learning, particularly through the restoration of funding to Learn and Serve America. To encourage action, please contact your senator to ask them to sign on to a Dear Colleague in support of funding for Learn and Serve America.

How to join in:

  • By May 16, Reach out to your senator (and any of their staff that you might know) and ask them to sign on to this letter. A sample message is below that you can forward and edit.
  • Look up who your senator is, and locate their contact information by clicking on this link and typing in your address. 
  • Find the e-mail for the staffers for your U.S. Senator.
  • You can also send messages through the online contact forms on your senators’ websites.
  • If you get a response that they will sign on, please forward that response (or send us a message letting us know) to slfc@ysa.org so that we can remove them from our follow-up list.

Sample message:

Dear Senator _____,

On behalf of [YOUR ORG], I am writing to ask you to sign on to the attached letter to Chair Murray and Ranking Member Blunt of the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations subcommittee to support a $250 million annual appropriation for Service Learning Fund programs. These programs would be administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS dba AmeriCorps) through its Learn and Serve America program, which is authorized by the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act but has been discontinued due to lack of appropriations since 2011. The letter also includes report language to direct fifty-percent of funds to economically disadvantaged communities and five-percent to Tribes. The deadline to sign on is EOD May 16.

Recovering from the pandemic and building back better will require active participation of young people in our nation’s civic life. Through a relaunch of the Learn and Serve America program, young people can contribute to addressing national challenges, like the pandemic, through service while learning the knowledge and skills necessary for future success. The Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriations bill required CNCS to submit a report to Congress to outline the process to restart Learn and Serve America so they are ready to receive these funds in Fiscal Year 2023.

The FY17 NDAA commissioned a report to “increase participation in military, national, and public service to address national security and other public service needs of the nation.” In March 2020, the Commission on Military, National, and Public Service issued its recommendations, and one of its primary recommendations is for Congress to create a $250 million Service-Learning Fund for State Education Agencies, Local Education Agencies, Institutions of Higher Education, State Service Commissions, and non-profit organizations to develop and implement service-learning programs and opportunities.

These types of opportunities are even more critical now as our nation’s K-12 schools work to increase student engagement in school and mitigate lost time in the classroom to prevent long-lasting effects on students’ achievement, future earnings, and the national economy as a whole. The reestablishment of well-rounded educational opportunities that promote student engagement and learning through nonprofit and afterschool programs like the Summer of Service and Semester of Service programs is a critical strategy in helping students recover from the effects of the pandemic.

We hope you will join us in supporting these cost-effective service-learning programs so that we can provide national service and extended learning opportunities to students across the Nation. Reps. Leger Fernandez and Kim are leading the House letter (https://ispri.ng/XRD96). This letter is supported by the Coalition of Service Learning (Coalition4SL.org).

The deadline to sign onto the letter is EOD Monday, May 16th.

To opt in: Please proceed to this Quill link (for use by U.S. Senate staff only)

For questions, please contact Alexandra_wilcox@vanhollen.senate.gov and shayla_britton@vanhollen.senate.gov.

Sincerely,

YOUR NAME
YOUR TITLE
YOUR ORGANIZATION
YOUR ADDRESS (TO IDENTIFY YOU AS A CONSTITUENT)

Dear Chair Murray and Ranking Member Blunt:

We respectfully request that you include a $250 million annual appropriation for a Service Learning Fund in the FY23 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). The CNCS will administer this Fund through the Learn and Serve America program as authorized by Subtitle B of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.

We also request that accompanying report language include the following:

“Within the total for Service Learning, the Committee provides funds for Summer of Service programs, Semester of Service programs, and service-learning programs in public schools and institutions of higher education. The Committee further recommends that fifty percent of the funds are directed to economically disadvantaged communities and five percent are set aside for payments to Indian tribes, the United States Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, to be allotted in accordance with their respective needs. All funds are competitive. Eligible applicants include SEAs, LEAs, IHEs, non-profit organizations, and state service commissions to carry out service-learning programs for K-12 and postsecondary students. Grantees that receive funding for low-income communities are not required to match federal funds.”

Prior to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we already saw stressed educational systems, divided communities, and too many young disengaged people.  The pandemic further amplified existing inequities, isolated individuals, and put students’ educational outcomes at risk. This lack of engagement has led to students struggling academically, socially, and emotionally. The impacts for low-income and minority students are even worse. The pandemic has primed us for deep-seated change in public education. We must ensure that we embrace the connections between education, economic opportunity, and national service.

The final report of the bipartisan, Congressionally-appointed National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service was published in March 2020.  After two years of study, the Commission recommended a dramatic increase in service-learning opportunities for K-12 and higher education students, giving young people the problem-solving and academic achievement skills they will need to be successful in school, work, and life.  In the Commission’s vision, every American will be exposed to service opportunities throughout their lifetime, beginning with young people experiencing robust civic education and service-learning during elementary, middle, and high school.

The Commission recommended that Congress create a Service-Learning Fund and provide $250 million in annual appropriations to CNCS to award competitive grants to state educational agencies, local educational agencies, institutes of higher education, State Service Commissions, and nonprofits to develop and implement service-learning programs for K–12 and postsecondary students across the country, including:

  • $100 million for Summer of Service programs for students who will be enrolled in grades 6–12 at the end of the summer;

  • $100 million for Semester of Service programs for students in grades 9–12; and,

  • $50 million for service-learning programs in public schools and institutions of higher education.

Last year, CNCS asked that they be given time to prepare to restart Learn and Serve America and recover the lost institutional knowledge since it was last funded . As a result, the Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriations bill required CNCS to submit a report to Congress to outline the process to restart Learn and Serve America so they are ready to receive these funds in Fiscal Year 2023.

We hope you will support this appropriation to reestablish Federal support of service-learning programs and provide students across the Nation with opportunities to engage in community service to address genuine needs while building their academic and civic knowledge and skills.

Sincerely,

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