New York City

De Blasio restores funding for summer programs after push by parents, advocates

May 29, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Councilmember Mathieu Eugene, center, at a City Hall rally to restore funding for summer programs. Far left: Councilmember David Greenfield. Far right: Councilmember Carlos Menchaca. Photo by Vanessa Ogle/Mathieu Eugene’s Office

Councilmember Eugene: ‘Huge victory’

After an intense campaign by parents, youth advocates and city Councilmembers, the Mayor’s Office announced it would restore funding for summer programs 17,000 kids for one more year.

Brooklyn Councilmember Mathieu Eugene, chairman of the Youth Services Committee, said the restoration of funding for the programming, part of the School’s Out New York City (SONYC) summer afterschool program, is a “huge victory” for thousands of children and their parents, especially those who rely on summer programs for a free lunch. Eugene said he has been working with the Campaign for Children for weeks on the issue.

Last summer, Mayor Bill de Blasio added 17,000 seats to summer middle school programs, doubling their capacity. Though the expansion was meant to be for one year only, the city notified providers that the funds would be available again this year, and centers signed on staff and registered children.

In March, however, the seats were suddenly eliminated, catching providers and parents off guard. Parents told Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña at a budget hearing that they were “not happy,” according to WNYC.

The funding cut came after city decided this year that the need was greater at renewal schools, according to city officials. They called the notification that funds would be available this year an unfortunate error.

De Blasio spokesperson Amy Spitalnick said via email on Friday, “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.”

The announcement came after Eugene, the Campaign for Children, youth advocates and other city officials rallied on the steps of City Hall on Thursday.

“Children begged me save their summer camps because they said it keeps them on the right track,” Eugene said in a statement. “If we want to make sure our kids have a bright future, we must start here with summer camps. I am so pleased our voices were heard. This is a major achievement for our communities.”

Eugene said he had delivered a letter to de Blasio on May 27, calling for the restoration of funding. The letter had the support of 30 Council members.

On Friday, he commended the mayor for restoring the funding.

“I am confident he will continue to ensure that children in all communities are provided with the opportunities they need to succeed,” he said. He also lauded the Campaign for Children, colleagues and volunteers.

The matter was expected to come up again at an executive budget hearing of the Youth Services Committee on Friday.

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