Top After-School Programs Caught in Budget 'Dance'

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This will be a short week but one full of events for many, including families with a child entering kindergarten and wayward students seeking alternative paths to graduating high school.

But first, here's a quick review of stories you may have missed over the long Memorial Day weekend. Michael Winerip of The New York Times wrote about the annual "budget dance" over possible cuts to after-school programs. This year, some of the city's most successful and emulated after-school programs are on the chopping block. He writes:

Currently, New York finances enrichment programs that run from 3 to 6 p.m. at 454 sites, serving 53,000 elementary, middle and high school students and costing $90 million; the proposal is to reduce that to 261 sites, serving 27,000 children for $71 million.

This would save $19 million in a budget of $67 billion, or about a quarter of 1 percent.

The program enables parents who can’t afford child care to hold jobs knowing that their children are safe and learning.

What adds to the budget drama is that some of the sites scheduled to be shut are among the city’s best.

So not only is the process painful, but it is also inscrutable.

Parents, educators, and students from Public School 24 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and I.S. 318 in Williamsburg explain the value of these programs and hope, in the end, the mayor and the City Council will spare them. The city responds:

Cathleen Collins, a spokeswoman for the city, wrote in an e-mail that just because programs were scheduled to be closed, it was “not a reflection of their quality or success, but rather a factor of limited resources and high level of competition.”

She said that the 261 to remain would provide more comprehensive — and expensive — services than in the past, including an education specialist to coordinate with the day curriculum; more science, math and literacy lessons; and more parent involvement.

The mayor is committed to balancing the budget without raising taxes, Ms. Collins said, and even with the cuts, more children would be accommodated than when Mr. Bloomberg was first elected a decade ago. “We are hopeful that the initiative will grow and thrive when more prosperous economic times return,” she said.

Gotham Schools reported late Friday that principals' evaluations stabilized last year, largely because test scores were more consistent year to year.

Almost 90 percent of schools received the same grade on their city progress report as they had the year before, or rose or fell by just one letter grade. As a result, according to Gotham Schools, only about 1 percent of principals — 18 out of 1,485 — got the lowest rating on the city’s five-point scale in 2010-11.

More than 25 percent landed in the highest category, “substantially meets expectations.” Of the lowest-scoring principals, only five remained in their position this year.

For more school news, check out Gotham's round-up.

Today the mayor is announcing a reform proposal regarding teacher discipline. He'll be with Schools Chancellor Dennis A. Walcott and State Senator Stephen Saland at Gracie Mansion this afternoon.

Coming up this week, the city is holding meetings for families making the transition to kindergarten, with specific strategies for how to make the most of the summer months. Staten Island and the Bronx are tomorrow night.

And later this week, there will be a school fair for students looking for additional ways to graduate. Representatives from transfer schools, Young Adult Borough Centers and GED programs will be there to talk with students and their families.