POLITICO: Advocates once again call on city to restore summer programs

By Eliza Shapiro

2:54 p.m. | Mar. 23, 2016

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s cuts to summer programs for middle school students disproportionately will impact poor children, according to advocates seeking to reverse the proposed cuts.

The $20 million cut included in de Blasio’s preliminary budget would affect 31,000 children, according to the Campaign for Children and Citizens’ Committee for Children. Poor neighborhoods would be hardest hit, advocates say; Brownsville, Brooklyn, would lose 1,577 summer camp slots and East Harlem would lose 1,281 seats. And parents will be on the hook to provide child care or stay home with their children if they no longer have access to local summer programs, the advocates say.

Controversy over the summer camp cuts have dogged de Blasio for two budget cycles.

Last year, he cut funding for the programs just months before they were due to open. After protests from advocates and members of the City Council, de Blasio restored the funding, admitting he had “screwed up” by removing funding too late in the year.

But he made clear the funding was guaranteed only for one summer, with no indication the programs would be paid for in future years. De Blasio has defended the cuts this year by arguing the city gave programs plenty of notice.

“This time, in the cool light of day, we’re saying ‘nope,’ we’re not going to fund that,” de Blasio said in January.

“As we announced one year ago, the city funded the 34,000 seats for last summer only, so that families and providers were not left hanging (due to the administrative issue),” Amy Spitalnick, a City Hall spokeswoman, said Wednesday. “We were clear in May 2015 that the seats would not be funded in summer 2016.”

But advocates and some council members are continuing the push for funding ahead of executive budget negotiations.

The Campaign for Children held a press conference on the steps of City Hall on Wednesday to urge de Blasio to restore the funding, again arguing the cuts contradict his administration’s mission to assist low-income New Yorkers.

Council members Mathieu Eugene, Laurie Cumbo, Margaret Chin, David Greenfield, Fernando Cabrera and Rafael Salamanca attended Wednesday’s press conference and called on the mayor to restore the programs.

“We have to send a strong message to the mayor,” Eugene said.

The mayor has expanded after school programs for middle schoolers, but only during the academic year.

De Blasio is facing a familiar set of education-related budget priorities this year.

Advocates are pushing for the same three top priorities as last year: for City Hall to expand its existing free lunch pilot, for the mayor to create pay parity for all early childhood education providers, and that funding be restored for summer programs for middle schoolers.

Read the Campaign for Childrens’ full report on the cuts here: http://bit.ly/1RkGAQF.

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