After-School Special, By George

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Billionaire philanthropist George Soros, known for humanitarian bailouts of Eastern European countries, is apparently ready to pass some of his money to New York City’s after-school youth programs.

Although details are still sketchy, sources familiar with the new initiative say the Soros Foundation plans to create a subsidiary–tentatively named the After School Corporation–to distribute up to $25 million over the next several years. Part of the money will fund 20 to 25 demonstration projects in neighborhoods throughout the city.

“I first heard about it in February,” says Brooklyn Democrat Kenneth Fisher, chairman of the New York City Council’s youth services committee. “It’s definitely been a hot item in the rumor mill for a while.”

Speaking to the New York Times a day after the story was first reported in City Limits’ weekly edition, an official with Soros’ nonprofit Open Society Institute said funding would probably be matched by the city and state.

“They are still in the planning stages, but it is going ahead,” says a source familiar with the efforts. An official at New Visions for Public Schools, a nonprofit that works with the foundation, confirms Soros staffers are researching after-school programs, but notes that the project is in its infancy. “They’re moving cautiously,” says the official, who requested anonymity. “We don’t have anything on paper yet.”

The potential Soros grant is a rare piece of good news in an area that has absorbed signifi-cant budget cuts in the 1990s. Shortly after taking office in 1994, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani began a series of deep cuts to the city’s youth service agencies. While many of those cuts have been restored, advocates say funding is still too low.

Calls to Lucy Friedman, a former city official who is coordinating the after-school initiative for Soros, were not returned.

Soros has become interested in domestic initiatives, spending about $50 million of his total outlays in the U.S. last year.

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