This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Last week, Philadelphia providers of afterschool programs such as tutoring and college prep were shaken up when their budgets were cut without warning.
Logging onto internal invoicing and attendance software, providers saw that their "slot levels," or the number of students they serve through Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services funding, had dropped.
The largest of the 71 afterschool providers, EducationWorks, experienced cuts that represented about 10 percent of the 1,200 kids they serve with DHS funding.
"Needless to say, providers were shocked," said Elise Schiller, Pennsylvania director at EducationWorks.
To make budget cuts of that size, her organization would have to lay off 25 staff members and shut out about 150 kids, Schiller said, but it would still be able to operate.
"For small providers, those who operate one or two programs … this is a death knell," she said. "Especially since there’s no preparation for it."
The cuts totaled about $1.6 million across all providers over the second half of the budget year.
DHS Commissioner Vanessa Garrett Harley said software changes and an "unauthorized letter" caused "unnecessary panic and alarm among some service providers."
"I met with our OST [out-of-school-time] partners today to address their concerns," said Harley in a statement. "We are in the process of reviewing all of our prevention service contracts to determine what, if any, cost savings are possible, however, no decisions have been made regarding cuts at this time."