The West Harlem Development Corporation rejected an application to cover the funding gap in the after-school program budget at a Teachers College-supported public school this summer.
The application for $150,000 in grant money came from Teachers College Community School, which was built as part of the benefits package Columbia promised West Harlem residents in the wake of its Manhattanville expansion.
After a year of offering free after-school programming, TCCS, on Morningside Avenue between 126th and 127th Streets, is now charging some families up to $1,800 per student per year. The University is obligated under the Community Benefits Agreement to provide $30 million to launch and support the school.
Kofi Boateng, WHDC executive director, said at a Community Board 9 meeting last week that the corporation was forced to reject the application because TC failed to provide information about its financial support for TCCS.
Boateng added that the development corporation’s board was worried about how it would look for the WHDC, which is responsible for distributing money from Columbia to West Harlem, to give money back to an organization that’s already receiving money from Columbia through the benefits agreement.
“The optic of WHDC shipping money back to Columbia is just no good,” Boateng said. “I have had subsequent discussions, and we are going to find some ways to bring it back for our board to consider. It will not be for this cycle, but we do not want to abandon the issue.”
According to the financial report that TC eventually sent to the WHDC, TC contributed $1.3 million to TCCS between July 2011 and June 2012. Roughly $900,000 of that money was cash support, mostly toward building and maintaining TCCS facilities. The school’s new building opened in September 2012.
Nancy Streim, TC associate vice president for school and community partnerships, said in a statement that limited resources drove the school to seek help from the WHDC.
“Since the Department of Education does not support after-school programs in public schools and TC’s resources are limited, we applied for the grant in hopes of leveraging other community resources,” she said.
Boateng said the corporation had voted to reject the application on June 25, after TC failed to send in the necessary documents. In her statement, Streim did not confirm whether TCCS had missed the June deadline, saying only that, at the time of receiving the application, “WHDC says it had not yet received the report from Columbia.”
University spokesperson Victoria Benítez confirmed that TC sent a report to the WHDC in July, although she added that TC had never been warned that, without the financial information, the application would be rejected.
“No communication from WHDC to the University had indicated that a pending grant application was at risk of rejection for lack of information from the University,” Benítez said in an email. “If there had been, we would have acted appropriately within our power to satisfy that concern.”
In his presentation to CB9, Boateng said the corporation had requested further financial information multiple times, but never received a response.
The failure to resolve the funding gap for after-school programs, which many working parents rely on as a form of childcare, has drawn concern from CB9 members, many of whom advocated a quarterly meeting between representatives of TCCS, CB9, and the WHDC to try and resolve the issue. CB9 chair Georgiette Morgan-Thomas said the promise of free programming may have been used in a “bait and switch” to lure in local families.
“We have got all these applications out there, but now if I’m a parent I’m not even going to put an application out there because there is no after-school,” she said. “And if I work, I need after-school.”
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