Thank goodness for Say Yes to Education.
Not only has the nonprofit organization opened up doors to a brighter future for countless students by pledging a free college education for Buffalo Public School graduates, it has just saved this year’s summer school for all elementary students with a $1.2 million contribution.
The effort is being made so that those children will have the benefits of the extended learning time that raises the chances for academic success. The program involves Say Yes partnering with a number of stakeholders, including the school district.
No one wants a repeat of the fiasco in 2012, when the district canceled summer school for students in kindergarten through sixth grade, mainly in an effort to save the few million dollars that would have been spent over the four-week program. Instead of daily classes, students were given some worksheets to take home for the summer. It saved money, while setting the children back.
Summer school was restored last year, and about 11,000 students took advantage. This year, half-day programs running for four weeks will be offered at 26 school sites for all elementary students in prekindergarten through sixth grades.
The total cost will be $2.6 million, funded through the Say Yes money as well as federal grants and general fund money, according to district administration.
Remedial summer school courses will also continue to be offered to students in grades seven through high school at a cost of $1.2 million, including student transportation.
Were it not for the extraordinary intervention of Say Yes, the district would be in a bind, an oft-repeated refrain in the poorly managed effort to offer students the extra support they need to succeed.
Interim Deputy Superintendent Mary Guinn explained that the district was forced to cut summer school after it spent more money than anticipated in trying to expand after-school programs this year. But even that effort fell short, with far fewer students than originally expected able to participate.
David Rust, executive director of Say Yes Buffalo, said the extended learning is a major factor in preparing students to access the Say Yes scholarship money. And interest by students and parents in the scholarship program is growing. For the Class of 2014, 96 percent of eligible graduating seniors applied for a scholarship.
Of the Say Yes Buffalo scholars from the Class of 2012, 57 percent went on to college or post-secondary education; for the Class of 2013, 66 percent did so, a big increase and the best the district has achieved since it began subscribing to the National Student Clearinghouse in 2007.
The nonprofit organization continues to do an amazing job, with support from the school district, city and county government, institutes of higher education, union leadership, parents and foundations.
As Rust said, adults have worked hard so that kids are able to access the opportunity that’s in front of them. Thank goodness for Say Yes.