With or without the sequester drama this month, groups in Syracuse are still trying to overcome cuts in education that stifled programming sustainability. Partners in Learning is one of those groups, a not-for-profit organization that oversees the operation of a children's early education program called MANOs and adult English classes through the West Side Learning Center.
Theresa Pagano, the founder of Partners in Learning, said that the first round of cuts happened in 2007 when the program, in partnership with the Syracuse City School District, faced a decrease in $158,000 in federal support. Adult evening classes sputtered out of existence, and Pagano sought to form a partnership with Head Start, a national program designed to foster learning in children before they reach kindergarten. Head Start is a primary partner for the 3-year-old class in MANOs, which stands for Madres y Niños and originated as a way to reach out to the Latino community in the Near West Side of Syracuse.
Now, several years after the initial wave of cuts, Partners in Learning continues to try to scrape together the money for continuing education through the summer.
"Nobody's learning stops because it's summertime," Pagano said.
Nor should it. All of the 4-year-olds involved in MANOs meet or exceed the developmental level expectations for entering kindergarten, and continuing that preparation is critical. But as it stands, both the adult and children's classrooms will lie dormant during the summer.
Partners in Learning hopes to save the children's program with a fundraiser in April. The event, called "Bringing the Worlds Together in Syracuse," will be hosted at the Palace Theater on April 13 from 6:30 until 11:00 p.m. There will be international foods, a silent auction and performers throughout the evening. Headliners include Grupo Pagán, a band with jazzy Latin influences; Puente Flamenco, a flamenco dancing troupe and several other performers that highlight that cultural diversity of Syracuse. Tickets are $25 online; details can be found on the event's Facebook page.
It's a shame that organizations like Partners in Learning need such measures to continue to offer quality education opportunities for Syracuse residents. But Pagano views it as a way to celebrate the cultures that populate the West Side landscape. Perhaps with a capacity-level turnout - and a few spare nickels and dimes - she can continue celebrating through August.