Advocacy Page

What is service-learning?

Service-learning is a type of experiential and project-based learning where students use both academic and civic knowledge and skills to address real community needs. It is proven to engage students when they understand that their service is authentic, has substance over time, and can be understood in academic or civic contexts. Service-learning recognizes that young people have the capacity to contribute to our democracy, even while still in school. Moreover, it sees all people as having the capacity to contribute – regardless of their age, economic background, education, race or ethnicity, or physical or learning abilities.

AmeriCorps and CCMA

AmeriCorps, founded in 1993, is the federal agency connecting individuals and organizations to tackle pressing challenges ranging from disaster relief to poverty. CCMA partners with AmeriCorps VISTA, the anti-poverty branch, receiving over 30 VISTA Members yearly.

Support for service-learning

“Inspired to Serve,” a May 2020 report from the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Services, calls for a $250 million Service-Learning Fund to be administered by AmeriCorps, to train educators and support Summer of Service and Semester of Service service-learning programs, organized locally. The report calls for the revitalization of civic education and the expansion of service-learning over the next 10 years.

The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act or Serve America Act (H.R. 1388, Public Law 111-13) was introduced in the United States House of Representatives on March 9, 2009. The bill reauthorizes and expands the AmeriCorps program that was first established in 1993. It passed in the House of Representatives on March 18, 2009.

The U.S. Senate debated and approved an amended version of the bill on March 26, 2009, renaming it the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, after Senator Ted Kennedy. The House of Representatives voted on the bill a second time, approving the amended version on March 31, 2009. It was signed by President Barack Obama on April 21, 2009.

A significant setback occurred in April 2011 when Congress passed the fiscal year 2011 budget and eliminated funding for Learn and Serve America, the sole federal funding stream dedicated to service-learning.

The recommendation

The Coalition for Service Learning phrases its proposal as follows:

“Establish a $250 million competitive Service-Learning Fund in the FY 2023 Labor HHS Education appropriations legislation for the Corporation for National and Community Service. Funds will be awarded to eligible SEAs, LEAs, IHEs, State Service Commissions, and nonprofit organizations.  These funds would support three programs:

  • $100 M for Summer of Service program for students in grades 6-12

  • $100 M for Semester of Service program for students in grades 9-12

  • $50 M for service-learning programming for students

All funds would be competitive. Additionally, to reach the schools with the fewest resources, 50% of funds would be reserved for schools serving low-income students and would require no match.”

How to advocate for service-learning

  1. Contact your federal legislators
    1. Request a meeting with your congressperson and/or their staff
    2. Write a letter to your congressperson
    3. Call your legislators
  2. Photo petition about why service-learning matters
  3. Contact your local newspaper
  4. Post on social media

Credit to Coalition for Service Learning for the majority of this page’s content. Click here to read more about how to advocate effectively for service-learning funding.