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Summer sessions, tutoring cut

Summer school and after-school tutoring will be drastically cut in the Buffalo Public Schools in 2012-13 because of cuts in federal funding, and parents don't like finding out about it one day before a deadline for their input.

Buffalo's Title I allocation, which funds both programs and is intended to help disadvantaged students, decreased this year from $39 million to $30 million, district officials said.

Summer school already had been eliminated for elementary school students this summer, with officials citing budget concerns but saying they planned to reinstate it next year.

That now seems unlikely. The summer school budget was cut to one-tenth of what it's been in recent years.

District officials presented the Title I budget Wednesday night at a meeting at Waterfront Elementary School to gather parent input before submitting the final budget, which is due today.

Administrators said parents could email their input by the end of Thursday to bpsgrants@buffaloschools.org.

Some at Wednesday's meeting were incredulous at the lack of information ā€“ three PowerPoint presentations were given, but no printouts were available, and some of the information was too small to see on the screen ā€“ as well as the one-day window for offering written feedback.

"This has to be done by when?" asked Carl Johnson, who identified himself as a parent advocate.

"Tomorrow," Diane Cart, an administrator in the district's grants office, said.

"Are you serious?" Johnson said.

"Yes," Cart said.

With the impending cuts, it's not clear exactly which after-school services or summer programs will be made available and to which students.

Superintendent Pamela C. Brown did not provide many details at Wednesday's Title I budget presentation. Instead, she spoke in generalities.

"We don't have the same level of resources as we had this past year," she said during an interview after the meeting. "We want to be more strategic in how we allocate those resources."

In 2011-12, the district slashed its summer school program to help bridge its funding gap.

But in previous years, the district spent more than $4 million just on its summer program for elementary students, which served about 4,000 students a year. The Title I budget for 2012-13 includes just $354,000 for summer school.

The focus of the summer program, Brown said, will be on the schools identified by the state as among the lowest-achieving in New York.

For about a decade, the district had been required by the federal government to fund free after-school tutoring provided by outside agencies to students at schools considered "in need of improvement." But under the state's waiver from certain federal requirements, districts now have the discretion to decide whether they will offer those services.

"We have looked at some of the results from [the tutoring programs]. We can't say across the board that every provider has generated strong results," she said.

"We're not saying we're not in favor of extended learning opportunities. We want to make sure they're well-designed."

Over five recent years, an average of 11,800 students in the district were eligible for the after-school tutoring in any one year, but only 3,750 took advantage of it.

email: mpasciak@buffnews.com