Several public agencies in the District are considering budget cuts that would severely limit some summer opportunities for youth.
Educational and employment programs operated by the D.C. schools, the Summer Youth Employment Program and the University of the District of Columbia are under review as officials try to close budget gaps and comply with spending reductions requested by Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon.
The proposed cuts to youth programs are being debated at a time when public concern is mounting about finding youths attractive alternatives to crime and drugs. But as the District faces one of its worst fiscal crises, officials said the summer programs involving thousands of young people are no longer affordable.
"It is very alarming that the cuts being made will have some impact on students. I wonder what will children do with their idle time," D.C. school board member Wilma Harvey (Ward 1) said of the proposed cutbacks in public school spending. "Unfortunately, it has to happen."
District school officials will consider next week whether to cut their summer school programs by $1.5 million, or nearly in half. Selective remedial courses would be provided to students who need to pass to the next grade and to students who are short of credit. But summer school no longer would be available to students seeking supplementary tutoring, officials said.
The D.C. schools also would eliminate their summer enrichment programs, which have provided students with special training in such areas as test-taking and computer skills.
"We would have a bare-bones summer school," said Harvey, who heads the board's Committee on Education Programs, which meets Tuesday to review the recommendation by administrators. "We're trying to live within the budget constraints."
The budget pinch also is being felt at the University of the District of Columbia, which is one of a number of public agencies recently told by Dixon to cut its budget.
A UDC trustees committee approved a revised spending plan Thursday that would cut course offerings in the summer by about two-thirds and eliminate 40 non-faculty jobs. The cuts would virtually eliminate classes for students who are not regular UDC students. Each summer about 1,500 students who attend local universities, or who live here but attend out-of-town colleges, get summer credit at UDC.
The university usually offers more than 1,000 courses a summer, but that would be cut to 360, with an emphasis on programs for year-round UDC students.
"We have to look out for our own students," said Marcellina Brooks, the vice president for academic affairs at UDC.
But some UDC students said that the reduction in course offerings in summer school was the most troublesome part of the university's budget proposal. Leaders of last fall's protest against the UDC administration said this week they will try to come up with alternatives.
"That proposal would cut off summer education opportunities to too many city residents," said Mark Thompson, who was a leader of the student demonstration. "There has to be another way to achieve saving in the budget."
The revised UDC budget for the spending year that started Oct. 1 would contain cuts of $1.49 million if it is approved by the full UDC board of trustees.
The D.C. Summer Youth Program, a popular enterprise that put nearly 14,000 city teenagers to work last summer, is another agency that finds itself facing the budget ax.
The youth program, one of former mayor Marion Barry's most touted legacies, is directly funded and run by the D.C. Department of Employment Services, for which the new mayor has suggested a 40.5 percent budget cut as part of an effort to offset a projected $300 million deficit. Last year, the agency paid more than $12 million to various nonprofit agencies and school programs to create the work and study posts.
With so many cuts being proposed in summer youth programs, board member Harvey said she hopes the community will find a way to pick up the slack. "It is my hope that some kind of collective type of partnership will take place between businesses and local organizations that will help in trying to bridge the gap," said Harvey, citing the participation of Boys and Girls Clubs as one example.
In the first step toward resolving its own budget crisis, the D.C. Board of Education unanimously approved cost-cutting measures yesterday that could include systemwide, four-day furloughs, the elimination of more than 75 administrative positions and a hiring freeze.
School officials said the plan would cut about $19 million of a projected $26 million deficit and affect everyone from school bus drivers to top administrators.
The board voted in a special meeting yesterday to send out furlough notices to all school employees. Employees must be given 90 days' warning of furloughs. The plan would leave it up to the superintendent and top administrators to decide when the furlough days would take place.
School officials view the cost-saving package approved yesterday as the first salvo of budget cuts. Board President R. David Hall (Ward 2) is meeting with union representatives to review alternatives to harsher, long-term options that might include firing some junior high and high school teachers.
William H. Simons, who heads the Washington Teachers Union, said his group will fight any attempt to fire teachers, and suggested that any furloughs should occur on normal school days.
"This is a community problem and the community should feel the impact," he said.
Staff writer Keith Harriston contributed to this report.
D.C. schools' summer school program -- possible $1.5 million cut -- including supplemental tutoring.
Summer enrichment programs in D.C. schools.
Summer course offerings at UDC.
40 non-faculty jobs at UDC.
Four-day furloughs, a hiring freeze and 75 administrative positions in the D.C. Board of Education.