Extended School Day/School Violence Prevention Letter

March 13, 2012
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
New York State Capital Building
Executive Chambers
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Cuomo:

The primary purpose of the Extended School Day/School Violence Prevention (ESD/SVP) competitive grant program is to provide support to students through extended school day and/or school violence prevention programs. In the 2010-2011 fiscal years the State Education Department (SED) appropriated $24.3 million in grants through a competitive process to eligible public schools, districts or not-for profit organizations working in collaboration with public schools.

In previous years, four high schools in my assembly district were able to access ESD funding to fund their extended day programs. Individual schools are now finding it difficult to access the ESD/SVP funds, because the process has been skewed and they are now forced to compete against large elite Community Based Organizations (CBOs) that have professional grant writers on staff. The elimination of ESD/SVP funding through the traditional funding process, compromises the education gains that were being made by students in my assembly district. Further complicating the issue, the ESD/SVP prevention program is funded from October 1, 2010 to June 30, 2013; with the option to renew for two additional years after the sun set date. The three-year project period disallows local schools that have seen their budgets decreased via state and local budgets to operate a successful extended day program until the ESD/SVP RFP process is reopen.

These ESD/SVP funds have been used in the past for tutoring in the areas of reading, math and science it also allows for the continuation of art, music, drama, student leadership, sporting and recreational programs which are the first programs cut in times of budgetary constriction. For example, Campus Magnet Educational Campus in Cambria Heights, NY received ESD funding in past years has seen reductions of $260,000 as a result of their exclusion from the process. When forced to submit a proposal against large CBOs Campus Magnet received a rating of 78 on their grant application where as the winning proposals were rated at a score of 94 or above. Campus Magnet will be unable to fund vital programs such as PM school, a robust credit recovery program, tutoring, student and community mediation programs, and life guard training. Generally speaking the ESD/SVP funding have kept young people, in a safe environment and off the street from the hours of 3 to 6 PM, and in some instances until 9PM in which crimes involving young people are most likely to occur.

Appropriate after-school funding for each school, is critical to supplement the education of at-risk student and must not be placed in peril because of an unfair grant process. Although the funds have already been allocated for three fiscal years, I implore you to reconsider allocating ESD/SVP funds through an RFP process and return to a traditional funding process. We know for certain that schools have the necessary tools to eliminate the achievement gap; we do not know whether the CBOs are equipped with similar tools. This new RFP process places onus of supplemental education squarely on the backs CBOs that have unproven pedagogical methods. Moreover, there has not been an appropriate evaluation tool attached to the RFP process whereby we are able to determine the credibility and validity of the funded programs to determine whether there is merit for continuation of such a program. A proven achievement gain should be the most important metric by which future funding is determined. All programs receiving state dollars must be assessed to determine whether it is indeed effective - assessment and evaluation should be an integral part of any RFP process rather than as an add-on or afterthought.

In addition to amending the RFP process for the ESD/SVP program, I am also requesting that you reconsider appropriating $250 million of the $800 million dollars in scheduled increases to education funding through a competitive grants process and redirect it to support core educational programs. Eliminating the grant program and shifting the governorís proposed $250 million grant program toward further reduction in the Gap Elimination Adjustment would do a great deal in rescuing many of our schools from the brink of educational insolvency

Assemblywoman Barbara Clark

CC: Dr. John King, Chancellor
New York State Education Department