Rawlings-Blake to announce $4.2 million in after-school funding

The Baltimore Sun
Rawlings-Blake to announce $4.2 million in after-school funding

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake plans to announce Monday that $4.2 million in additional funding will be allocated for after-school and summer school programs, potentially affecting several thousand students.

"It's important that we're supporting our schools to provide the best education possible for our young people," Rawlings-Blake, who had pledged during her 2011 campaign to double after-school funding, said in an interview. "I fought hard to put the city in a place where we could make these additional investments."

According to the mayor's office, funds are being allocated to bolster community-based organizations' ability to offer support and administer grants to youth-related causes; to add six schools to the after-school program of the Baltimore City Community Schools Initiative; and to support the Family League of Baltimore in investing in after-school and summer programs for K-12 students in "underserved" communities.

The move comes after the City Council adopted a resolution April 27 seeking the funds.

Associated Black Charities, a public foundation that supports local communities, and the Family League of Baltimore, an organization that promotes healthy families, will receive a collective $1.25 million to offer leadership support and grants of $25,000 to $50,000 to smaller community organizations.

Rawlings-Blake said these groups were chosen to make sure that there is "accountability and equity in the process of applying for out-of-school-time funds." According to Rawlings-Blake, the funding has no effect on the city budget.

"Instead of pre-paying debt, the mayor has found room to shift more funding toward these programs without undermining the city's fiscal health," said Kevin Harris, a spokesman for Rawlings-Blake.

The additional funding has the support of City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young, who said he is committed to this area of funding every year.

"Out-of-school time really is important to our young people. That's the time that they spend to enhance what they learn in school during the year so when they go to back to school, they're already ahead of the curve," he said. "[Consequently] what happens is these kids have a great attendance record and they're more likely to be promoted to the next grade."

Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said she considers the funding an "excellent down payment" on the success of Baltimore's students.

"This is going to open opportunities for hundreds and hundreds of our school children at a time when we need it the most," she said. "It's perfect timing to demonstrate that the city is serious about making our children a priority."

Rob English — a lead organizer for Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, or BUILD, an interfaith nonprofit organization — had advocated for the additional funding at a May 11 rally outside City Hall. English said the move shows that Rawlings-Blake is making good on a promise to invest in youth.

"Listening requires a response, and this announcement shows that the mayor listened," he said. "It's one more step to providing young people in our city with the academic and cultural enrichment that they are desperately asking for."

Ladaisha Ballard, a program coordinator for the Child First Authority, a partner organization of BUILD, said she is hopeful that investing in youth can help prevent the circumstances that led to the recent unrest.

"Baltimore City is a very beautiful city, but not for enough people," she said. "Unless we start to redirect our children and say, 'Hey, this is not normal behavior,' we're going to see these things over and over."

Rawlings-Blake said that supporting Baltimore's young people is always a priority, and that the outburst of violence further shows the demand for resources.

"The recent unrest shows that while we've been working hard to support young people, there's still a need. There's still people that are hurting in our communities," she said. "[The funding] builds on the foundation I've been working on — looking for every way to support young people and families. I want Baltimore to be a place where people want to live."

cjedra@baltsun.com

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