Mayor de Blasio: Restore funding for middle school camp programs

Roshan Abraham
Nonprofits rallied for youth summer programs at a May 8 executive budget hearing at New York City Hall

Mayor de Blasio: Restore funding for middle school camp programs

Vital programming for 34,000 middle school students is at stake.
June 4, 2018

This year, more than 34,000 middle school students across all five boroughs will miss out on the summer camp experience if funding that was eliminated in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed fiscal year 2019 budget is not restored.

There is a critical and urgent need to restore the funding immediately to provide certainty for students, parents and camp administrators. From a logistics standpoint, summer programs are slated to start only days after the budget is adopted. In order to prepare camps properly, administrators must hire and vet staff through New York City and New York State background checks, register students and secure adequate space for the programs to take place. All of this takes time and careful planning. This is a lot to ask of program administrators, not to mention the thousands of parents who will be forced to wait until the last minute to register their children, which is a hardship unto itself.

With summer just around the corner, many New York City students and parents are looking forward to summer camp, and rightfully so. Summer camp programs provide students with both recreational and educational activities that keep them engaged and combat summer learning loss, and provide parents with a safe place to bring their children while they work to provide for their families.

"Without these vital summer camp programs, students are at risk for summer learning loss, lack of physical activity and access to nutritional meals that they might not receive at home."

Parents have also come to rely on summer camp programs to provide a constructive and nurturing environment for their children when schools are closed. In a survey conducted by Campaign for Children of 2,500 parents with children in summer programs, nearly 90 percent of parents reported they rely on summer camp so they can work or go to school, and that their children learn crucial academic skills while in summer camp. The same survey found that 50 percent of parents using child care and 36 percent of parents using afterschool programs said they would quit their jobs to stay home with their children if they did not have access to programs.

Beyond the practical, there is also a broader policy issue at stake. The students who rely on the summer camps now in question are participants in the Schools Out New York City initiative program. SONYC was created to help students continue to learn outside the classroom and to help parents send their children to a safe place while they are still at work and is operated entirely through community based organizations that provide programs in schools, public housing developments and other community space. The inclusion of a summer component has been a key part of SONYC’s success up until this point, which raises the question: Why abandon such a promising program that has proven to be so beneficial in just a few short years? The decision is both perplexing and counter to the city’s stated goals.

This is the third year the executive budget has proposed the same cut. Each year, communities and City Council members have joined together to support the summer camps and restore funding. Now, yet again, we are back in the same position. Similar to years past, communities are rallying to support the summer camps. In early May, more than 100 students attended the budget hearing for the City Council’s Youth Service Committee in protest of the cuts. At the hearing, members of the Youth Service Committee agreed with the students that, once again, this is an issue of critical importance.

Without these vital summer camp programs, students are at risk for summer learning loss, lack of physical activity and access to nutritional meals that they might not receive at home. Parents, who do not have alternative childcare as an option, run the risk of leaving their children at home alone or even quitting a job that supports their family. In the interests of many thousands of students and parents across New York City, we urge the mayor and City Council to restore the funding for middle school summer camp programs immediately. The repercussions of inaction are far too great.

Susan Stamler
Susan Stamler
is the Executive Director of United Neighborhood Houses of New York, the oldest and largest network of settlement houses and community centers in New York City.
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