Mayor Bill de Blasio's office has decided to provide funds for thousands of middle-school students to attend summer programs, programs that the mayor had planned to cut earlier this month. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
Outside City Hall Thursday, more than 100 students, parents and City Council members rallied. Inside, Council members grilled Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña about last-minute funding cuts that would leave thousands of kids without the summer programs they'd been counting on.
"It's incredibly frustrating for us in the Council, and we have no answers to be able to give our constituents, so we are not happy," said City Councilman Julissa Ferreras of Queens. "It's an understatement."
All the heat seemed to work. Within a few hours of the hearing and rally, Mayor Bill de Blasio's office announced he was reversing course and reinstating the summer program funding that had been left out of the city budget he proposed earlier this month.
NY1 first reported two weeks ago that the mayor had quietly cut the funding, affecting 17,000 middle-school kids. He wanted to divert the money to struggling schools. But the cuts shocked de Blasio's allies since he had first provided the money just last summer.
"A cut to summer programs makes absolutely no sense, and we call upon the mayor to right the wrong," said Nancy Wackstein of United Neighbor Houses.
The issue forced Council members, who are usually de Blasio's allies when it comes to education issues, to oppose him.
City Councilman Brad Lander of Brooklyn: We got to make this loud enough for the mayor to hear so we get this fixed by tomorrow. When we make a promise, what we do?
Crowd: Keep it.
Lander: What do we not do?
Crowd: Break it.
By Thursday evening, de Blasio got the message loud and clear, restoring the money.
The mayor's office now says it only intended to support the programs for one year, and that while it has relented for this summer, it will cut the funding again in 2017.
Parents say they are relieved, for now, since the summer recess is about to begin. And if the money is cut next year, they will fight all over again.