Bloomberg’s $50M Plan to Give NYC Charter Students a ‘Summer Boost’

Youtube / NYC Mayor’s Office

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Charter schools serving K-8 students in the nation’s largest district can now apply for grants to create or expand their summer learning programs, thanks to a $50 million initiative launched Monday by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The effort, called “Summer Boost,” is meant to help students bounce back from the pandemic’s lasting impacts, Bloomberg explained in a joint City Hall address with Mayor Eric Adams.

Stalled academic progress through the pandemic is like “the educational equivalent of long COVID,” said Bloomberg. “The good news is we know how to treat it: extra help and intensive instruction. We’ve got to provide it, and we’re going to start right now.”

The investment bolsters an already ambitious plan for summer learning in New York City. Adams previously announced he is working to expand the city’s existing summer school initiative, “Summer Rising,” from 98,000 children last year to 110,000 this July — the largest in the city’s history. The mayor also plans to up the number of city-sponsored jobs and paid internships for older students from 75,000 to 100,000.

The city’s Summer Rising program is open to all K-8 students, including those who attend publicly funded charters and private schools, but Bloomberg indicated that charter sector leaders are interested in running their own independent programs.

“The charter schools wanted to take a chance, take the opportunity to try what they’ve been doing during the school year for the summer schools, which they didn’t have before,” said Bloomberg.

Mayor Adams’s endorsement of the program from Bloomberg, who announced in 2021 that he plans to spend $750 million to expand charter schools nationwide, represents a break from his predecessor Bill de Blasio, a stark opponent of charter school growth. The announcement marked Bloomberg’s return to City Hall for the first time in eight years.

“I am not going to be caught up in the conversation of separating children based on the names of the schools they are in,” said Adams. “Every young person, whether they are in district schools or charter schools, they deserve to have a quality education.”

The privately funded $50 million sum will cover seats for 25,000 youth at up to $2,000 per student, with grant applications open now through May 4. There are roughly 938,000 students enrolled in traditional NYC public schools and 143,000 attending charters.

“Every school will be eligible and hopefully every school will apply,” explained Howard Wolfson of Bloomberg Philanthropies. “Our expectation is that the vast bulk of the applications will be approved.”

Ben Samuels-Kalow, founder and head of school at Creo College Preparatory Charter School in the Bronx, which currently serves fifth through seventh graders and will scale to eighth grade next year, was thrilled by the Monday announcement and said he plans to apply for a grant in the coming days. His school ran a math-intensive summer program last August, a model that he said provided an “on-ramp” to the school year, rather than the typical July programming, which can be more on an “off-ramp.”

Should his school receive funds through the Summer Boost grant this year, it will allow Samuels-Kalow to provide additional pay to staff who may be struggling with burnout and fatigue, he said.

“Teachers have had the hardest possible last two years of their professional lives,” he said. “[This grant] is giving schools the material ability to compensate teachers for their time.”

Having a critical mass of educators on site for summer learning opportunities, the former BES fellow added, “is hugely beneficial for kids and for schools.”

Schools may plan programs that serve up to a third of their total enrollment, with a focus on reaching those who have fallen furthest behind during the pandemic, and can request to expand further if funds are left over after the first round of grants are awarded, according to the initiative’s FAQ page.

Summer Boost will offer free professional development and English and math curricula from Lavinia Group, owned by the for-profit teacher education company Learners Edge, to participating schools, though they may use their own curricula if they prefer.

Grantees must test students at the start and end of their programs, which are required to run at least 20 days, said Wolfson. Bloomberg Philanthropies is contributing about two-thirds of the initiative’s budget and private donors, including the Carson Family Charitable Trust and the Gray Foundation, are covering the rest.

Representatives from the KIPP charter network, which operates 18 public charter schools in the city, declined to comment on whether their campuses intend to take advantage of the Summer Boost program.

School leaders interested in learning more about the program can join one of several info sessions offered late April through early May.

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