The Trump administration has proposed eliminating the sole source of funding for New York City’s dramatic expansion of its community schools program, according to budget documents released Tuesday.
Less than two weeks ago, city officials announced its community schools program would expand to 69 new schools this fall, financed entirely by $25.5 million per year of funding earmarked for 21st Century Community Learning Centers — a $1.2 billion federal program which Trump is again proposing to eliminate.
The community schools program is a central feature of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s strategy for high-need schools — a model he called a “game-changer” earlier this month. It is designed to help schools address the physical health and emotional issues that can impede student learning, in part by pairing them with nonprofit organizations that offer a range of services, such as mental health counseling, vision screenings, or dental checkups.
City officials downplayed the threat of the cuts, noting the Republican-controlled congress increased funding for the program in a recent spending agreement and that similar funding cuts have been threatened in the past.
“This program has bipartisan support and has fought back the threat of cuts for over a decade,” a city education official wrote in an email.
Still, some nonprofit providers are nervous this time will be different.
“I’m not confident that the funding will continue given the federal political climate,” said Jeremy Kaplan, director of community education at Phipps Neighborhoods, an organization that will offer services in three of the city’s new community schools this fall. Even though the first year of funding is guaranteed, he said, the future of the program is unclear.
“It’s not clear to [community-based] providers what the outlook would be after year one.”
City officials did not respond to a question about whether they have contingency plans to ensure the 69 new community schools would not lose the additional support, equivalent to roughly $350,000 per school each year.
“Community schools are an essential part of Equity and Excellence and we will do everything on our power to ensure continuation of funding,” education department spokeswoman Toya Holness wrote in an email.
New York state receives over $88 million in 21st Century funding, which it distributes to local school districts. State education officials did not immediately respond to questions about how they would react if the funding is ultimately cut.
“President Trump’s proposed budget includes a sweeping and irresponsible slashing of the U.S. Department of Education’s budget,” state officials wrote in a press release. “If these proposed cuts become reality, gaps and inequity in education will grow.”