Tag Archives: 21st Century

California Issues An RFA for the 21st CCLC Program, Illustrating Why You Should Remember Old Grant Programs

As we’ve written before, grant availability moves in waves, with funding rising to meet new challenges. For example, the advent of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan caused a host of nonprofits to spring up and provide support to wounded veterans. Funders, particularly foundations, rushed to offer significant grants. With the wars winding down, it is getting harder for such nonprofits to claim urgency and foundations are likely moving on to address emerging problems.

In the government funding world, however, things are different. Congress is always ready to create new programs, such as the huge Health Navigators program and dozens of other healthcare-related discretionary grant programs created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”), but it behooves nonprofits not to forget about long-standing programs. They may seem to be buried in the background as zombie grant programs, but they often retain significant funding. With the de facto replacement of federal budgets by continuing resolutions in recent years, most discretionary programs are refunded year after year, with cost of living increases.*

For an example of an old program that has lots of money and remains relevant to provide needed services, check out 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLCs). It’s been around since the days of Columbine but remains one of the best ways of funding after school enrichment activities. Since there has been no reduction in school shootings, bullying, and disappointing educational outcomes in general, after school programming should be of interest to nonprofits and schools. We wrote extensively about the 21st CCLC program as an illustration of federal pass-through funding two years ago and since then nothing has changed.

California just issued Requests for Applications (RFA) for its 21st CCLC Program for Elementary and Middle Schools, along with the 21st Century High School ASSETs program. There’s $36,000,000 up for grabs, Pay attention even in you’re not in California, since 21st CCLC is a federal pass-through program and funding exists in every state. If your agency is at all interested in after school programming, it’s a good idea to check with your state department of education to figure out when you can apply. A nice aspect of 21st CCLC grants is that they’re for five-year projects, so if you get a grant, you’ll be operating the project for a fair amount of time.


* There is the minor annoyance of budget sequestration, which may have some impact on discretionary grant programs but so far hasn’t been discernible to us. Besides which, it looks like the Republicans in Congress will probably trade sequestration cuts for entitlement reform in the upcoming budget negotiations. No one knows the future, but this is one plausible future.

There is Now a Standard for Everything: Nutritional Snacks and Perhaps Making Tea

From page 21 of the California 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) RFP:

A nutritional snack must be served each day the after school program operates. All snacks are required to meet specific nutrition requirements as stated in California Education Code (EC) Section 49431. Include a statement that explains how the nutritional snack requirement will be met.

There really is a standard for everything now, and I don’t even think this one is a joke—unlike the ISO 3103 standard for brewing tea.* Its abstract says:

The method consists in extracting of soluble substances in dried tea leaf, containing in a porcelain or earthenware pot, by means of freshly boiling water, pouring of the liquor into a white porcelain or earthenware bowl, examination of the organoleptic properties of the infused leaf, and of the liquid with or without milk, or both.

Some of us can truly specify everything and understand nothing. And by “some of us,” I mean bureaucrats. But I think the joke ISO writers were at least in on what they were doing, and their effort is close to Orwell’s Politics and the English Language, where he does things like take the King James Bible and render it in bureaucrat-speak:

“I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

Here it is in modern English:

“Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.”

I would like to see the writers of the 21st CCLC RFP have a go at the KJB in California bureaucratese.

Incidentally, Orwell was also interested in how to make tea, but he did not describe his preferred tea making style this way: “The method consist in extracting of soluble substances in dried tea leaf.” Alas: what a loss to humanity.


* I don’t think I’ve ever seen an (intended) joke in an RFP. If you have, leave a note in the comments.

Federal Pass-Through Programs Illustrated: California Issues RFAs for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers – Elementary & Middle Schools and High School ASSETs Programs

Grant writing is inherently confusing—particularly when it comes to federal “pass-through” grant programs. A pass-through program is one in which the federal government passes grant funds to state or large local jurisdictions based on an allocation formula of some sort. Let’s take a look at one such program, 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC).

The 21st CCLC program started about 12 years ago as a direct federal competitive program from the US Department of Education. Essentially, this program funded and still funds before- and/or after-school enrichment activities—including tutoring, arts and crafts, recreation, cultural activities, computer skills and so forth—along with family literacy and a few other odds and ends. Think of it as more or less a standard Boys & Girls Clubs of America program.

Not surprisingly, Boys & Girls Clubs make great 21st CCLC applicants, as long as they partner with a LEA (“local education agency” in education-speak) or public school, which they all do anyway. The program was well-funded, and we wrote lots of funded 21st CCLC grants around the country. The whole exercise was straightforward because there was one pot of money with fairly large five-year grants available, one annual deadline, and one set of criteria. Of course, this simple approach was too much for Congress, and about six years ago the 21st CCLC program was transformed into a pass-through structure. While every state is guaranteed some money, the smaller states do not get all that much and each state Department of Education runs their own RFA (“Request for Applications”, which is RFP in education-speak) process. The result of this “reform” is much confusion about the program, when to apply, and on and on.

The 21st CCLC situation in California illustrates how a fairly simple program concept can become fantastically complex when the feds take the pass-through approach. Since California is huge, it gets a huge 21st CCLC entitlement. Every few years, the California Department of Education issues not one, but two 21st CCLC RFAs. The FY 2012 RFAs were issued on October 7, including the 21st Century Community Learning Centers – Elementary & Middle Schools program and the 21st Century High School ASSETs (After School Safety and Enrichment for Teens) program, the latter being for high school students. Each RFA is 65 single-spaced pages long, with lots of qualifiers, charts, and tables that are too numerous to recite here. It gets better—there are also on-line application forms. In addition to meeting the basic 21st CCLC federal and state regulations, applicants—which can be LEAs, schools, nonprofits and public agencies—have to find an eligible partner school that does not currently have a 21st CCLC program, or, if it does, the existing program has to be in the last year of operation. Since 21st CCLC grants are actually five, one-year grants, a given school and potential 21st CCLC provider might be out of synch with the application process. This makes it challenge for a non-LEA applicant to partner with the right school at the right time to get a 21st CCLC grant.

Despite the layers of complexity that the California Department of Education and other SEAs (“state education agencies”—this is an acronym-heavy post) have added to the 21st CCLC program, it remains the single best way of funding an after school program. Assuming the red tape can be surmounted, a successful applicant is reasonably assured of five years of funding that can make an enormous difference in the lives of vulnerable children and youth (free proposal phrase here).

And keep in mind that the program is available in every state, as long as you can find it and figure out the application process. To help out, here are links to the 21st CCLC in New York and Illinois. Poke around your SEA website and you should find the 21st CCLC site. Then, determine the funding cycle, line up a school partner and be ready when the RFA is issued. While your investigating the 21st CCLC program, look for state-funded analogue programs too. For example, California has the After School Education and Safety (ASES) program. I’m not sure of the current funding levels for ASES, but it wins the unintentionally funny acronym contest, although it is pronounced “aces,” not as it appears.

Illinois has the better named Teen REACH (Teen Responsibility, Education, Achievement, Caring, and Hope program, but children as young as seven can participate, so don’t trust public acronyms. The best of worlds is to combine a 21st CCLC program grant with a state-funded grant, which, for those of you who are old enough to remember, means you will be able to double your pleasure, double your fun.

Other pass-through federal programs, such as HUD’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program and the Office of Community Services’ (OCS) Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) program work similarly to the 21st CCLC program, except they’re even more complicated. I’ve written a bit about CDBG and CSBG earlier and won’t put readers to sleep with more minutia about them. The key point to remember with federal pass-through funds is that applicants have to understand both the underlying federal regulations, as well as the state/local application process.

There’s Something Happening Here, But You Don’t Know What It Is, Do You Mr. Jones?*

I felt like I was living Dylan’s Ballad of a Thin Man as I read the following news stories this week:

  • Thousands mob Detroit center in hopes of free cash. The City of Detroit has a $15 million Stimulus Bill grant to “prevent homelessness” and cluelessly announced that people could come to the Downtown Coho Convention Center to apply for a $3,000 housing assistance voucher. Something got lost in the translation and 35,000 folks showed up expecting to get a $3,000 check on the spot. At most, the City may eventually help up to 5,000 people with this program. Being a typical federal program, however, there’s a means test and lots of rules, so most of the would-be applicants have no hope of getting help. But the rumor on the street was that “Obama money” was there to be had and the stampede started, with the Detroit Police Gang Unit called out to restore order.

    Was any of this necessary? Of course not, but is an example of what I warned about last March in The Stimulus Bill Meets Santa Claus Meets American Idol in Virginia: At best it is disingenuous and, in this case, positively dangerous, to mislead the average Joe into thinking that they are somehow going to directly get a slice of the Stimulus Bill pie. The “official” unemployment rate in Detroit is 28%, which means the actual rate is probably about 40%. Seems more than a little cruel to wave a phantom $3,000 in front of thousands of desperate people, but I am sure the same pattern is unfolding all around the country (email me any examples you’ve come across, or leave a comment). The whole business reminds me of the Federal Free Cheese giveaways of the early 1980s recession, but at least then you got a five-pound block of Velveeta for your troubles. If I had written the City of Detroit proposal that resulted in the $15 million grant that spawned this fiasco, I would have included 5,000 blocks of cheese in the budget just for old times’ sake.

  • Holder, Duncan plan to fight Chicago teen violence: The senseless beating death of 16-year-old honor student Derrion Albert by other teens was captured on cell phone video, unlike the murders of 29 other school kids so far this year in Chicago. I guess the video component woke up Washington. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who was previously the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Superintendent for many years but apparently never noticed the violence in his schools, and Attorney General Eric Holder were dispatched to find out what’s happening in Chicago. But the meeting with city politicos, school officials and parents from Christian Fenger Academy High School (where Derrion was a student) was held at the Four Seasons Hotel in the Loop, not the High School! I have a feeling not too many of the parents had ever been to the Four Seasons.It seems that while Duncan and Holder are concerned, they are not concerned enough to actually set foot on the South Side. Incidentally, at the exact time the croissants were being passed around at the meeting and stern looks exchanged, a violent fight involving dozens of students broke out at Fenger Academy.

    So perhaps it was prudent to keep our Education Secretary and Attorney General out of harm’s way and in the Green Zone while visiting Chicago, like Vice President Biden does when he drops into Baghdad. Not surprisingly, Duncan and Holder have promised “$25 million in next year’s budget for community-based crime prevention programs, Holder said. Duncan said an emergency grant of about $500,000 would go to Fenger for counselors or other programs.”**I guess the message to school principals facing budget shortfalls across America is to make sure all student beatings/murders are videotaped and broadcast around the country. Since we’ve written many funded proposals for youth violence prevention, mentoring, etc. for clients on the South Side of Chicago and frequently churn the very depressing school data from CPS, I looked briefly at the 2008 Fenger Academy High School Report Card. Two percent of students meet or exceed state academic standards (this has actually gone down by 80% from 10% in 2006) and 0% (that’s right: zero) of students exceed the math, science or writing standards. Violence is clearly only one of the school’s many challenges. Statistics like this are what makes writing proposals involving Chicago Public Schools such a mixed pleasure: it’s easy to make a case for the proposal, but it’s hard to imagine the people behind the statistics.

  • New Hampshire prosecutor: Evidence does not support death penalty charge: Four teenagers decided to stab a woman and her daughter to death in what seems to be a random attack in rural New Hampshire, which is apparently not as bucolic as its seems. This incident recalls the Leopold and Loeb thrill killings of 1924 and the Columbine High School massacre of 1999. The four teen suspects apparently admitted the crime, saying more or less that they just wanted to kill somebody. I guess after school recreation opportunities in rural New Hampshire were not challenging enough for this quartet.
  • California’s Zigzag on Welfare Rules Worries Experts: To save $375 million, California has taken the workfare out of its CalWorks “welfare reform” program that replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). California no longer requires welfare recipients to attend training or get a job to get a check. Let’s party like its 1989!While the story is interesting on many levels, reporter Erik Eckholm doesn’t understand one very real impact of this starling change. The $375 million California is “saving” are the vouchers that would have been used by CalWorks participants to pay for participant training, along with child care while they are in training. Over the past ten years, an enormous infrastructure of mostly nonprofit training and child care providers has grown up around the country that are fed by these vouchers. Without the vouchers, these providers will not be able to continue to provide services and will have to lay off hundreds, if not thousands of child care and other workers, many of whom originally were CalWorks participants themselves. I guess they can re-apply for CalWorks, only this time they won’t have to work, squaring the circle.

Since I am not a coy tunesmith like Bob Dylan, I will plainly read the tea leaves about what the above stories mean for all of you Mr. Jones out there: a second wave of Stimulus Bill type grant opportunities is coming, although Congress is unlikely to bill the bill(s) as such. Instead, the effort will be couched in such proposalese as “safety net funding,” “community violence prevention” and the like. Unemployment is still rising, the Great Recession is more of a Depression in many of the communities for which we write proposals and teens go on violent rampages.

The Obama administration is already testing the waters—at the risk of overwhelming you with random news stories, see Obama Aides Act to Fix Safety Net. As is the case with most publicized social problems, the government response to crises is more grant programs. A case in point: I mentioned the Columbine Massacre previously. The federal response then was to ramp up funding for all kinds of youth programs, and in particular my personal favorite, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) Program. For years after Columbine, we wrote dozens of funded 21st CCLC, youth mentoring and similar proposals. Some were for agencies serving the neighborhood in which Chicago’s Fenger Academy is located.

In August 2008, when the economy began to crumble and long before the words “Stimulus Bill” had been penned by anyone, I held a staff meeting in which I told the Seliger + Associates team that a wave of new grant opportunities was coming. We advised our retainer clients and started blogging on the subject. The wave turned out to be a tsunami of grant availability unseen since the Ford and Carter administrations. Another wave is building. Smart nonprofits, cities, counties and school districts will rub on their Mr. Zog’s Sex Wax and start paddling to meet the wave. There are going to be enormous opportunities to fund all kinds of human services, community development and economic development programs in the next year or two, just as there has been since last winter.

As faithful readers will know, we’ve been furiously writing proposals. In the past week, we’ve learned that three disparate proposals we wrote recently have been funded: $1,500,000 for a California city under the HUD Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control Program, $500,000 for an Ohio nonprofit under the Department of the Treasury Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Program, and $300,000 for a Wisconsin nonprofit under the HUD Rural Housing and Economic Development (RHED) Program. This is partially a consequence of skill, but also one of awareness: when the waves are good, it’s time to surf.

This remains the best time in 30 years to seek grant funds and, and if my finely tuned grant antenna is working as it has for 38 years, it’s only going to get better in the coming months. Keep in mind that the new federal fiscal year started October 1, appropriation bills are emerging from Congress, and all representatives and many senators have to gear up their election campaigns with the prospect of double digit unemployment, weak economic growth and both urban and rural youth violence exploding across America. Bad news, as illustrated above, is good news in the wonderful world of grants, so don’t wait for the actual grant tsunami to crash over your head. Instead, make sure your organization takes full advantage of this reality now by researching and applying for grants.


* The perhaps apocryphal backstory of this biting song is that Dylan may or may not have written it after being interviewed by a particularly clueless Time Magazine reporter for Dylan’s wonderfully obtuse 1965 Time Magazine interview.

** I am delighted to read about a new $25 million community violence prevention grant program. Here’s a small sample of the dozens of existing federal grant programs that aim to do more or less the same thing (pssst—keep these a secret as we don’t Secretary Duncan or Attorney General Holder to know about them):

  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) Program
  • Juvenile Mentoring (JUMP) Program
  • Title V Delinquency Prevention Program
  • Recovery Act Edward Byrne Memorial Competitive Grant Program
  • TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) Program
  • I could go on. Nonetheless, I’m all in favor of new grant programs, so all I can say to Duncan and Holder is rock on!