District Budget Cuts Mean the Axe for Summer School Programs

As schools begin to feel the effects of a recessionary economy, more and more cuts have to be made in keeping with general state budget reductions. The New York Times recently reported that summer school programs across the country are being hit hard.

Nearly every school system in Florida has eviscerated or eliminated summer school this year, and officials are reporting sweeping cuts in states from North Carolina and Delaware to California and Washington. The cuts have come as states across the country are struggling to approve budgets, and California’s governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, declared a fiscal state of emergency on Wednesday.

Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, urged that at least some of the $100 billion in emergency aid to public school systems around the country be used to keep schools open for the summer. Despite his suggestions, many state budgets have seen such hard times that the idea of pumping these much needed stimulus dollars into summer school programs is not on the top of most administrators priority lists.

Hardest hit from these cuts to summer school programs will be low income families. Without the money to afford alternative summer activities, children of low-income families are oftentimes taking up low paying jobs or forced into a summer of structureless loitering.

“We’re seeing a disturbing trend of districts making huge cuts to summer school; they’re just devastating these programs,” said Ron Fairchild, executive director of the National Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University. “It’s having a disproportionate impact on low-income families.”

Brevard (Florida) classrooms are shuttered, and students like 11-year-old Uvenka Jean-Baptiste, whose mother works in a nursing home, are spending their summer days at home, surfing television channels or loitering at a mall.

Officials in many other states, considering summer school a frill, despite research showing it can narrow the achievement gap between poor and affluent children, have spent their stimulus money elsewhere.

Summer as a vacation is every child’s idea of heaven, but this time still needs to be used to promote their healthy educational development. Taking away this safe and structured place to foster a child’s education might save a bit of money, but the loss this imposes on children in the long term can surly not be justified by these savings.

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