By Kelsey Durham

City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) has launched an initiative aimed at restoring the Peter F. Vallone Academic Scholarship in honor of his father that was cut from the Council’s funding in 2011.

The merit-based program was established in 1998 and each year gave tens of thousands of city high school graduates scholarship money to continue their education, regardless of ethnicity or immigration status, so long as they maintained a B average.

The $6 million program was cut by former Council Speaker Christine Quinn prior to the start of the 2012 fiscal year, many believe in retribution after former Astoria Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. objected to the renaming of the Ed Koch Bridge.

After meetings and hearings throughout the past few weeks, Queens lawmakers in the Council voted last week to make restoring the scholarship their top priority.

“There is no better time to resurrect the Vallone Scholarship Fund,” said City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens), who serves as chairman of the Queens delegation. “It is an effective program that encourages CUNY students to do well in school and rewards those who succeed.”

At a hearing held June 12, several speakers testified in support of bringing back the Vallone Scholarship, including Peter Vallone Sr. and five members of CUNY’s administrative personnel, who all requested that the Council consider restoring funding for the initiative.

“Approximately 15,000 students took advantage of the scholarship every year,” Peter Vallone Sr. said in his testimony, which pointed out that “$11 million set aside in 1998 with tuition then at $3,200 amounted to almost one-half the tuition.”

The senior Vallone, who had been speaker of the Council, added, “I always believed that public education should be free from pre-school through college and available to all. This scholarship was a major fist step in that direction, and I ask that no matter by what name you call it, please restore it because it simply is the right thing to do.”

A form submitted by Paul Vallone’s office requests $5 million for the 2015 fiscal year, if the scholarship is to be restored, and refers to the program as “New York City’s Dream Act.”

A spokesman for Vallone’s Bayside office said that for the time being the Council is still attempting to restore the scholarship under Peter F. Vallone Sr.’s name, but there is a possibility it would be changed to attribute it to the Council as a whole rather than one person.

Although Vallone is still pushing for it to continue being named in honor of his father, he said he would be fine with a name change, if his colleagues in Council requested it.

As of this week, the councilman’s office was waiting to hear how the Brooklyn delegation of the Council ranked the scholarship restoration among its priorities, but Vallone said he was confident it would be placed high up on their list as well.

“As support continues to grow, we are taking a critical first step to bringing back a program that will bring financial relief to thousands of students and parents who struggle to afford the ever-rising cost of higher education,” Paul Vallone said.

Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at kdurham@cnglocal.com.

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