July 12, 2011; Source: Education Week | Highlighting a recent report by the Rand Corporation emphasizing the importance of education programs in offsetting the “summer slide,” here a story in Education Week looks at how four programs in four different cities have expanded despite the challenging economic climate of the past few years. While program administrators in Baltimore, Chicago, and Oakland have managed to patch together various combinations of federal stimulus funds, private grants and community partnerships, city leaders in New Orleans have established a new nonprofit foundation to serve as a catalyst for the city’s summer and after school programming.

In New Orleans citywide summer programming has more than doubled from last summer when only seven city pools and 12 camps for children under 12 were available to local residents. Bobby Garon a lawyer and chair of the newly created New Orleans Recreation Foundation, explained to Education Week, “Our city’s recreation department was broken, and it had been broken many years before Katrina.”  Garon added, “There was no quality programming going on in this city.”

As a result of the work of Garon’s foundation and a newly formed independent entity backed by voters called the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission, formerly the city’s parks and recreation department, New Orleans has been able to expand the city’s summer programming budget. “Given the influx of funding and community partnerships, only a year later, 29 camps are serving more than 4,000 New Orleans children younger than 12, more than 3,000 teenagers are participating in both enrichment and youth-jobs programs, and five more pools have opened.” The story also points out that through new partnerships with community organizations, the city will be able to serve an additional 2,000 children this summer.

Encouraged by the achievement gains that many summer programs have already shown, Jeff Smink, the vice president of policy at the National Summer Learning Association, told Education Week that he was “optimistic” that program administrators would be able to make a “compelling case for support” for their programs going forward. Smink noted however that the funding climate next summer is apt to be even “more challenging.”—Anne Eigeman