City schools scaling back summer programs, citing lack of federal cash

Tribune reporter

With money tight,Chicago Public Schools'summer Safe Haven program will be scaled back and serve fewer students.

Last year, the district used $975,000 in federal stimulus funds for Safe Haven, which encompassed 100 churches working with 5,000 students on issues including conflict resolution and anger management, as well as reading programs, tutoring and arts.

This year, with no more federal stimulus money and a deficit nearing $700 million, the district will spend about $360,000 on Safe Haven. An estimated 2,000 kindergarten through high school students will be served and 60 churches will be involved, the district said.

Speaking after a press conference Wednesday announcing the summer safety initiative for this year, schools chief Jean Claude Brizard said the district is taking a new approach with anti-violence initiatives. Instead of focusing efforts on the most at-risk students, the district is trying to intervene earlier by tackling behavioral problems when they first crop up, he said.

Funding has also been cut to Youth Advocate Programs, which provides mentors and intensive intervention for the most at risk students.

"We’re stuck between a rock and a hard place in making tough decisions and reducing some of the funding," Brizard said. "At the same time, we’ve looked at a holistic approach to student behavior and student supports, which is why we went at the proactive piece as well."

Brizard said the district can't fund YAP at previous funding levels.

"I support YAP. I think it’s an amazing program," Brizard said. "We don’t have the level of funding that would be required to address all kids. And it’s not going to get at the root causes we have in this city. What the public needs to know is that we are committed to making sure that we build the capacity, the resilience of young people to avoid conflict."

With children and teens regularly falling to gunfire across the city, Mothers Opposed to Violence Everywhere is launching a volunteer-based pilot program in elementary schools around North Lawndale to walk students to and from school over the summer.

On Friday, the last day of classes at CPS, St. Sabina Church on the South Side will sponsor a peace rally with Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and Brizard.


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