Mayor Eric Adams joined former Mayor Michael Bloomberg in announcing a $50 million philanthropic initiative aimed at supporting public charter schools this summer as they struggle to keep kids from falling behind because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adams and Bloomberg were chummy about the “good old times” as they spoke about the education program at yesterday’s conference in City Hall. “The Summer Boost in New York City is so needed,” said Adams at the conference. “This massive investment that this administration is receiving for those children in charter schools is going to help children and families all over this city, and is going to make our schools work for everyone.”

The program is called ‘Summer Boost NYC’ and is to serve about 25,000 kindergarten through eighth grade students, particularly students of color from low-income families. Summer Boost will provide funding for about five weeks of instruction in math and English for schools that apply at summerboostnyc.org.

Additional funders include Ken Griffin, Stan Druckenmiller, the Carson Family Charitable Trust, Robin Hood, Gray Foundation, and the Wilentz Foundation, said Bloomberg.

“After two years of school closures and inadequate remote instruction, students across the United States have fallen behind, sometimes as much as a whole year,” said Bloomberg at the conference. “And the harm has fallen heaviest on the children who were too far behind, especially low-income Black and Latino students. Without urgent help, many of them will fall further behind, which could have devastating effects on their chances for graduating high school, and going to college, or beginning a career. That would be a disaster for them but also for our city and our country.”

Adams has already taken steps to expand the city’s summer school program called Summer Rising and the summer youth employment program (SYEP). SYEP is supposed to support 100,000 job opportunities for youth ages 14 to 24 as part of the strategy to battle gun violence and spikes in crime usually seen during hotter months in the city.

“During the summer month, crime increases,” said Adams. “Our goal is to place our children in safe spaces so that we can bring down the violence, bring children into safe environments so that they can continue to grow and learn and prosper during the summer months.”

Adams has also recently announced the expansion of the controversial Gifted and Talented programs across the city, which his predecessor former Mayor Bill de Blasio had moved to phase out because of “debates over the unequal and discriminatory treatment” of Black and Brown students, reported CNN.

Bloomberg said that private sector and philanthropic groups have a duty to step in and do what they can to help with educating the city’s youth.

During his 12 years as mayor however, Bloomberg was often criticized for leaving a legacy of ‘stop and frisk’ that affected about 5 million people, most of which were “young Black and Latino men from some of the city’s roughest neighborhoods” who mostly hadn’t committed a crime, reported NPR. ‘Stop and frisk’ was ruled unconstitutional just as Bloomberg left office in 2013, said NPR.

Summer Boost aims to hyperfocus on students of color from low-income families. The Mayor’s Office provided a study from McKinsey & Company that found that the pandemic widened preexisting inequitable gaps in education. The study said that students in majority Black and Brown schools ended the year with six months of “unfinished learning” in math, high schoolers have become more likely to drop out of school and less likely to go on to higher education, and more broadly, more than 35% of parents are very or extremely concerned about their children’s mental health.

“Starting out behind instead of starting out ahead, is something we have to move away from,” said Adams. “We know if we expand opportunities at the earliest possible age, we can set out our kids on the right path to success.”

Adams said he believes in all year school, and that children need to have structured education throughout the entire year to catch up and to exceed.

Howard Wolfson runs the education program at Bloomberg Philanthropies and was the deputy mayor of governmental affairs under Bloomberg. He designed the summer school programs. Wolfson said that the curriculum will be “a rigorous program of academics” in math and English with social and emotional learning and recess.

“Some charter schools will probably choose to use their own curricula,” said Wolfson. “Some of the larger networks have already been running programs like this, and probably have a sense of how they’d want to do it. We’re going to let them do that. But some schools who have never had the money to do this will likely use the model curricula that we’ll be providing. And so it’ll be a mix.”

Adams said he plans to continue reaching out to the city’s former mayors, including de Blasio, and learn what he can from them.

Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w

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