Funding the Kennedy Serve America Act: Appropriations Process Begins Soon in Congress

Obama signs the Serve America Act, 4/09

Obama signs the Serve America Act, 4/09

Beginning in early July, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will mark up the fiscal year 2010 Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education Appropriations bills.

The Kennedy Serve America Act, enacted in April, authorized the expansion of national service, but offered no promises in terms of how much funding Congress would give the Corporation for National and Community Service to implement the Act. According to the organization Voices For National Service, President Obama’s budget request for the Corporation for National and Community Service totaled $1.149 billion, including funding for:

AmeriCorps: to create 10,000 new AmeriCorps positions (the first step towards the Serve America Act’s goal of 250,000 annual members by the year 2017). Learn why funding these positions is important for local communities throughout the United States.

  • $372.5 million for AmeriCorps State and National grants to support 74,861 members, $101 million or 37% increase over the FY09 enacted level. Continue reading

New Online Discussion Board for the Serve America Act Implementation

Serve America ActIn response to the Kennedy Serve America Act that will take effect October 1, the Corporation for National and Community Service is holding listening sessions — Katrina Mathis wrote about these this past week — and launching a few conference calls and an online discussion board where you can share your thoughts.

To achieve the goals of the Serve America Act — including expanding opportunities for all Americans to serve; focusing on important national outcomes; serving as a catalyst for social innovation; and supporting the nonprofit sector — the Corporation is swinging open the door to hear as many ideas as possible, in order to glean the best ideas and thoughts from Continue reading

Engaging Service Members of All Ages and Abilities in Service

Living today for a better tomorrow

May has been declared Older Americans Month, by the Administration on Aging (AoA) out of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

According to the AoA: “This year’s theme ‘Living Today for a Better Tomorrow’ reflects AoA’s continued focus on prevention efforts and programs throughout the country that are helping older adults have better health as they age.” Many seniors of all abilities are “living today for a better tomorrow” by committing themselves to national and community service through Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn & Serve programs.

In May 2007, the Corporation for National and Community Service released “The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research” (PDF). The study “documents major findings from more than 30 rigorous and longitudinal studies that reviewed the relationship between health and volunteering. The study, which were controlled for other factors, found that volunteering leads to improved physical and mental health.”

Key findings include:

  • Older adults are more likely to receive greater health benefits from volunteering; including improved physical and Continue reading

CNCS: Student Service on the Rise, but Less Connected to Learning

New report shows fewer schools using effective education strategy

Wednesday The Corporation for National and Community Service released a new report showing that community service in U.S. schools has reached an all-time high. 68 percent of all K-12 schools offer or recognize some kind of service opportunities for their students but that service-learning is down.

The report, Community Service and Service-Learning in America’s Schools 2008 (PDF), found that while community service has increased in K-12 schools, the percentage of schools with service-learning declined from 32 percent in 1999 to 24 percent in 2008.

The study is the result of a survey of a national sample of more than 2,000 K-12 public school principals across the United States.  The results were released at the Academy for Education Development.

To view the full report and other information, visit www.NationalService.gov/research.

“This report comes at a critical time when our educational needs are great, our resources scarce, and our educators are searching for answers,” said David Eisner, the out-going CEO of the Corporation.  “The number of students failing to graduate is rising to epidemic proportions.  Yet we see that many schools are missing a key opportunity to use this proven strategy to help their students become more motivated and engaged both in and out of the classroom.”

The reason service in school matters at all is that research shows that introducing young people to service sets them on a path to lifelong civic engagement.  Tuft’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) reports that volunteering empowers youth with the knowledge that they can make a difference in their communities.  Last year the Corporation published another report, Leveling the Path to Participation, that also found that youth from disadvantaged circumstances who volunteer feel more influential in their communities than do their peers who don’t volunteer.

One guess as to the decline in service-learning is that school leaders may falsely believe that service-learning only benefits a student’s civic achievement. In truth, research has shown that service-learning increases a child’s capacity to achieve academically as well—by deepening the learning experience and diminishing negative behaviors.

Other key findings of the study include:

  • The majority of school districts do not provide service-learning policies, according to school principals.  Only 19 percent of school principals report that their districts have a policy that promotes service-learning, and 28 percent of principals do not know whether their district has such a policy.
  • Elementary schools are the least likely to offer service-learning activities.  20 percent of elementary schools have service-learning programs, compared to a quarter of middle schools and over a third (35%) of high schools.  Furthermore, over half (51%) of elementary school principals believe their students are too young to engage in service-learning.
  • The class gap in service learning is decreasing but still exists.  Schools in low-income areas are significantly less likely to have service-learning activities than other schools.  In 1999, schools in low-income areas were 57 percent less likely to have service-learning activities; in 2008 they were only 35 percent less likely to offer service-learning.  Still, only 20 percent of schools in low-income areas currently offer service-learning activities compared to 27 percent of schools that are not in low-income areas.