Congressmen Lou Barletta, R-Pennsylvania, and David Cicilline, D-Rhode Island, know the importance of funding afterschool programs, which positively impact the lives of thousands of children and their families annually.

The pair, on Wednesday, sent a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney requesting that the administration strongly reconsider any proposals to eliminate the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which provides federal funding for afterschool programs such as SHINE.

SHINE is a proven successful educational program in Carbon, Luzerne and Schuylkill counties that Barletta has championed with state Sen. John Yudichak, D-Luzerne/Carbon. Nearly half of SHINE’s funding comes from the 21st CCLC program.

“We write to express our deep concerns over reports that the president’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget request will include elimination of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program,” both lawmakers wrote. “This critical program provides a direct funding stream to allow children to have access to afterschool programming. We ask that you reconsider this misguided proposal.”

Rachel Strucko, director of the SHINE program in Carbon and Schuylkill counties, agreed.

“The decision by President (Donald) Trump to eliminate 21st Century Community Learning Center Programs funding in his 2018 budget would be devastating for thousands of children and families across not only the commonwealth, but the country as well,” she said Thursday.

“SHINE’s return on investment has been well documented over the last 10 years. We are confident in Congressman Barletta and his relentless advocacy for 21st Century Community Learning Center funding.

“The SHINE Afterschool program is ready and willing to provide any additional information relative to continuing our powerful advocacy for the children and families of our three counties,” she added.

This is not the first time that the 21st CCLC program has been slated for elimination.

Beginning in February 2015, Barletta began working to restore its funding by successfully negotiating 14 changes to a House bill that eliminated the program.

He also established a record of support for afterschool programs in the House Education and Workforce Committee.

On the House floor, Barletta spoke in support of his own successful amendment that requires school districts to report to state agencies on the use of Title I money for afterschool activities to further demonstrate the importance of such programs.

When the legislation reached the conference committee, Barletta also sent a letter to lead House and Senate negotiators imploring them to preserve the 21st CCLC program. As a result, the 21st CCLC program was reauthorized on a bipartisan basis under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

“SHINE has a record of success when it comes to providing kids with educational opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have had and benefiting families in northeastern Pennsylvania who balance work and raising their kids in a healthy environment,” Barletta said. “It is critical that we continue to support afterschool programs like SHINE, which have proven invaluable to so many families in our community. I lookforward to working with the administration to restore this important funding.”