Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a $35 million pilot program on Monday that would expand access to after-school programs in some of the state’s neediest areas, including the Bronx.
The plan is one of Cuomo’s legislative proposals, which requires approval by the state’s Senate and Assembly, but sets the tone for the 2017 session. It was the governor’s second education-focused proposal this year — the first was an ambitious plan to provide free tuition at state colleges — and his first specific to K-12 education.
If approved, the plan will provide an extra 22,000 after-school seats in cities that are part of the state’s Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative. The funds would be distributed through competitive grants.
Creating more after-school seats is in line with a shift in state educational priorities that started last year when Cuomo backed an investment in “community schools” that provide resources like health clinics and tutoring. This proposal is similar, in that it tackles a subset of needy schools and focuses on wraparound services.
“This pilot program will further level the playing field for children in underserved cities across the state by expanding their access to programs and community resources that will help them get ahead in school and later on in life,” Cuomo said in a statement.
Support for community schools and after-school programs marks a departure from Cuomo’s 2015 education agenda, which upended the state’s teacher evaluation system, a move that proved unpopular with the teachers unions and many families. The resulting backlash fueled the opt-out movement and a new direction in state education policy.
Brandon Cardet-Hernandez, principal of Urban Assembly Bronx Academy of Letters in the South Bronx, hopes to receive extra funding to expand his school’s after-school program to high school students.
For the middle school students it currently serves, he said, the program has been a game-changer. It is a place for them to participate in clubs and athletics, get extra help with their school work, and have fun.
“Extending the school day allows us to make sure that our kids are safe and know where they are,” Cardet-Hernandez said. “But it also allows us to create opportunities for enrichment programs, sometimes programs that we don’t have the budget to offer during the day.”