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17 New York City After-School Sites to Close Despite Proposed Budget Increase

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's budget proposal to boost after-school spending to $190 million next year, an increase of $45 million for the next fiscal year, falls short, according to advocacy groups.

The Campaign for Children, a New York City-based coalition of about 150 after-school and early-childhood-program providers and advocates, is warning that without an additional $5.9 million, 17 after-school and summer programs that serve 1,882 high-needs children, will be forced to shut down at the end of June when their contracts with the city expire.

Mayor de Blasio's preliminary budget plan for the 2015-16 academic year would add at least 22,000 after-school slots for middle schoolers in order to serve more than 100,000 students attending public schools with middle grades. 

His budget for the current school year had already nearly doubled the number of after-school spaces for middle schoolers from 44,000 to about 78,000.

But the 17 programs facing closure are in elementary schools and the mayor is not proposing any expansion of after-school programs for elementary grades.  An additional complication is that these programs were funded under contracts with the city's Department of Education under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but most after-school programs are under the Department of Youth and Community Development.

Stephanie Gendell, the associate executive director of the nonprofit Citizens' Committee for Children of New York, said advocates were hoping that de Blasio would extend the contracts through either department, but the funding wasn't in his preliminary budget proposal. 

The Coalition, which includes Gendell's organization, has held rallies in the city's  Brooklyn and Queens boroughs and is asking people to write letters to the mayor's office urging the administration to include the money in its executive budget, which is expected to be released this week.

"It's all one city of New York. There's no reason why the city couldn't have continued to fund [these programs] and the children couldn't have continued to have their programs," Gendell told Education Week.

The children who stand to lose their summer and after-school programs live in the highest-need areas of the city and are most at risk of not succeeding in school, added Gendell.

The Citizens' Committee created maps showing that 15 of the sites are in communities where fewer than 28 percent of students in grades 3 to 8 pass the state reading test and 10 are located in areas where about 34 percent pass the state math exam. Another 11 of the programs in danger of closing are in neighborhoods where the childhood poverty rate exceeds the city average of 29.8 percent.

NYC Poverty Map and After-School.png

"The city has taken significant steps toward improving outcomes for children in the last year, and it is crucial that we continue this progress," said Jennifer March, the executive director of the Citizens' Committee for Children, in a statement on the campaign's website. "That's why we're urging the mayor and the city council to keep these 17 after-school programs from closing in communities that need them most, and to take immediate action to stabilize and strengthen the early-childhood education and after-school systems."

The mayor's office would not comment directly on this situation. Instead, in an email to Education Week, spokesman Ishanee Parikh wrote; "The de Blasio administration has nearly doubled the number of after-school seats throughout the City, and recognizes the valuable service they provide to working families. These programs are priorities in our budget process."

If the additional funding isn't included in the executive budget, advocates would have to turn to the city council for possible relief. That would be cutting it close, however, because the deadline for the council to approve the budget is June 30, the same day the contracts end.

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