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Cutbacks Ahead for Out of School Programs

Cutbacks. Cutbacks. Cutbacks.

Major reductions in the Philadelphia school district's summer programs may mean more children are going hungry this summer, according to a recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

To curb a growing deficit, the district will be making $26 million in cuts by the time next year's budget is adopted in June. (A $218 million deficit is predicted for the district in 2012-2013.) A portion of the cuts will hit summer academic and enrichment programs hard.

Specifically, the district's cuts this summer will mean the number of students enrolled in summer programs will drop from 19,000 last summer to 10,000 this summer. Summer school, just one of the district's summer offerings, will only serve high school seniors who need credits to graduate, and special needs students.

Many children enrolled in summer programs receive free and reduced-price meals during the school year and rely on the summer programs to also provide food. Without the programs, many face an uncertain road ahead this summer, the article reports.

In response, the city plans to open the doors of its 1,000 feeding sites to children who need free meals. Some are concerned, however, that families will be unaware of the resources available. The city says it will be providing information online and over the phone about these resources.

Budget cuts are not only impacting Philadelphia kids in out-of-school programs. In New York City, the executive budget released this week has significant cuts planned for the city's well regarded afterschool programs, which I've written about here.
If the cuts take effect, the system will serve only 27,000 elementary and middle school students next year, when just a couple years ago, in 2009, 60,000 were served.

According to Lucy Friedman, TASC president, the proposed cuts will "dismantle" the after-school system and well-established community partnerships.

"I'm thinking of the shock waves rippling through schools, families, and community organizations that have worked side by side with city government for years to improve the quality and sustainability of expanded learning opportunities," Friedman wrote. "These community organizations are lifelines for families, supporting kids socially and emotionally against the hardships of poverty, helping students access mental health services or get the glasses they need to see their teachers, and giving kids extra academic support to be ready to move up to the next grade."

The budget has yet to be finalized and is pending negotiation.

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