Two weeks after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ignited a blaze of criticism by cutting funding to summer learning programs for tens of thousands of middle school students, and hours after a protest outside City Hall on Thursday, he has agreed to restore the money.
“After hearing from parents and kids, we’re pleased to announce that the administration will fund the full 34,000 middle school seats for this upcoming summer, for this year only—so that families and providers are not left hanging,” said Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for de Blasio.
As Education Week reported here on May 15, the mayor shocked and angered program providers when he released his executive budget proposal, by rescinding as much as $24 million in grants for summer programs that had already been awarded. Instead, de Blasio’s office said the money would be redirected to provide services at 130 struggling schools.
The decision left mostly low-income parents scrambling to find other activities for the summer where their children would be safe and could participate in programs designed to prevent summer learning loss.
Since the programs are scheduled to open the first week of July, many providers had already started hiring staff and enrolling students.
The Campaign for Children, a coalition of 150 providers and advocacy groups, immediately began lobbying city officials to reverse the decision.
More than 100 people rallied Thursday on the steps of City Hall while the city council’s finance committee held a hearing on the executive budget. Council members criticized the cuts. According to the New York Daily News, 31 city council members signed a letter calling on the mayor to restore the money.
“We thank the mayor for fully restoring funding for summer programs, and for acting quickly on this critical issue. We are also grateful to the City Council for their strong, continued support,’ said the Campaign for Children in a statement. “Children, parents, and providers are breathing a sigh of relief tonight and look forward to a wonderful, enriching summer.”
But, as the statement from the mayor’s spokeswoman notes, the extended funding is only for this summer. Last summer’s funding for the programs was supposed to be one-time only, according to Spitalnick. She said the letters informing providers that the programs were renewed were sent in error.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Time and Learning blog.