Today, Congressmen John Katko (NY-24) and Joe Morelle (NY-25) introduced bipartisan legislation that seeks to combat summer learning loss that is especially prevalent in low-income communities. The legislation establishes a grant program to fund summer reading programs at schools that already serve as summer meal sites, helping to close the achievement gap while reducing food insecurity.
“For far too many children in our community, the only nutritious meal that they receive is at school. This means that during the summer months, these children may go without healthy meals,” said Rep. Katko. “Additionally, vulnerable children often lack access to public education over the summer months and cannot continue to build reading skills. This legislation tackles both issues, enabling at-risk children to enjoy quality meals while simultaneously advancing their education between school years.”
“Lack of access to educational opportunities over the summer has a clear and detrimental effect on students’ long-term academic success,” said Rep. Morelle. “Children in poverty and low-income communities already face a number of barriers to achievement without being exacerbated by summer learning loss. I’m proud to partner with Representative Katko to introduce this common-sense legislation that combats both academic and nutritional instability and ensures students have a safe, stable place to learn over the summer.”
Summer learning loss is a pervasive issue in every community across America, but particularly in underserved or low-income neighborhoods. Low-income children lose 2 or more months of reading achievement every summer, and by 5th grade, children without summer learning opportunities are 2 years behind their peers.
Research has shown that high quality summer learning programs can help students maintain or even increase their academic skills over the summer months, especially in reading—however, the majority of school libraries are closed during the summer months when students need them the most.
Based on Oregon’s successful “Summer Learning Partnership”, the Summer Meals and Learning Act would create a new Federal grant program for state libraries to fund summer reading programs at schools that already provide lunch programs and where at least 50% of students read below grade level or are at risk of reading below grade level. The program would be funded at $5 million for each of the fiscal years 2020 through 2024.
“You cannot learn on an empty stomach. Sadly, for many kids, summer equals hunger. Good summer programs provide students with access to nutritious meals, which millions of children in the U.S. need,” says Aaron Philip Dworkin, CEO of the National Summer Learning Association. “Programs that bring together natural partners like schools and libraries and include the critical summer meals component help communities efficiently use resources and ensure that youth who are most at risk have access to summer supports that help them thrive year-round.”
The grant program, run by the Department of Education, would also require agencies receiving grants to submit yearly reports regarding the progress made in achieving the purposes of the grant or sub-grant to the Secretary.