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OSSE Statement on Citizenship Requirements for HHS Funded Afterschool Programs

Thursday, August 16, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) today issued the following statement:

“As State Education Agency for the District of Columbia, OSSE remains dedicated to providing service and support for District children of all ethnic backgrounds and nationalities.

This morning, a press release entitled Citizenship Requirements for [District of Columbia Public Schools] DCPS Afterschool Programs was distributed that contained several statements that we must clarify.

The aforementioned press release was in response to community concerns surrounding whether or not children would be required to provide citizenship or legal status documentation in order to enroll in DCPS afterschool programming.

OSSE serves as fiduciary agent and administrator of federal funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), providing $6.8M in HHS funds to DCPS for afterschool programming for the 2012-2013 school year.

As a federally-subsidized program, OSSE is under HHS mandate that program eligibility criteria include official documentation indicating family income, citizenship or legal status of any child receiving afterschool services. Subsequently, it is important to note that over 99.9% of District children participating in afterschool programming remain eligible with no obstacles.

However, a lack of supporting program eligibility documentation represents a serious violation of federal requirements and could lead to audits, fines, grant revocation and other sanctions. OSSE has invested considerable time in its effort to remove the District of Columbia from the ‘high risk’ status the agency inherited upon its inception, so it is critical – for the sake of all D.C. students –  that OSSE adhere to all federal requirements.

While DCPS does receive HHS funding, it uses other funds to ensure all children can participate in afterschool programming. DCPS has said that it has no intention of turning students or families away for afterschool programs or services. Parents who do not submit the citizenship documentation will still be permitted to enroll their children in afterschool.

Ultimately, improving the access and quality of services for all District students is an area we are committed to addressing every single day. OSSE has been equally ardent in making the adjustments needed to manage federal funds for programming within and beyond the classroom, while ensuring no budget loss will come at the expense of providing top-notch education services to District children and families statewide.

Nonetheless we are all invested in education and remain excited about the upcoming school year, so on behalf of OSSE, DCPS, the D.C. Office of Latino Affairs, Office of African Affairs, and Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, we understand our obligation as advocates and custodians over a system that will meet the collective needs of every single District child in our care.”