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After School Advocates Waiting on Albany

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Earlier this week, kids from the Lower East Side joined teens and education advocates from across the city at City Hall to protest cuts to 150 after school programs. The “Save After School Now Coalition” delivered petitions containing more than 10,000 signatures to Mayor Bloomberg’s office.

The rally was covered by Channel 5 and Channel 7. Kids spoke about the importance of the programs — which are credited with reducing youth violence in the hours between 3-6pm and in giving high school students a fighting chance at a college education.  The Educational Alliance, which runs the Edgies Teen Center, is a main organizer of the campaign to restore after school funding. We profiled the center last year.

Bloomberg has said he does not want to eliminate the program but that the city – reeling from the worst budget crisis in recent memory – must make tough choices. At the same time, he’s been pressing Governor Paterson to restore hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to New York City.

Margaret Chin was one of several members of the City Council who addressed the kids. She told them:

The City Council members are going to make sure we stop these cuts because we want to invest in our future. We want to make sure the mayor hears loudly, “Yes to youth.”

In a newspaper editorial this week she was more specific — making it clear she favors raising new revenue rather than simply cutting programs:

We can’t let the Mayor dictate the false choice of choosing to save some essential services and not others. The real choice is about our priorities as a City. Do we want to ask all New Yorkers to pay their fair share, to invest in our city to keep our communities strong? Or do we want to impose cuts that will disproportionately hurt lower and middle-income families — the families that depend on city services the most? For the future of our city, let’s stand together to make the right choice… We have to expand the conversation to include revenue generating solutions — including closing the tax loophole currently enjoyed by hedge funds and raising the income tax by less than 1% for those who make $250,000 or more. A more progressive income tax structure will ensure future revenue for essential core services. It’s also the fair thing to do: Lower and Middle Income New Yorkers actually pay a higher percentage of their income than the top 1%, because our somewhat progressive income tax is offset by our regressive sales tax. And nearly 80 percent of income growth in New York City in the last decade has gone to the wealthiest 5 percent of taxpayers. I call on Washington to pass the legislation moving through Congress that would close this hedge fund loophole, and I call on the Mayor to lobby Albany to make our tax structure more progressive.

Yesterday, Chin aide Jake Itzkowitz said the City Council is waiting on Albany. There’s a June 28th budget deadline. Once Council leaders know how deeply Albany intends to cut allotments to New York City, Chin and her colleagues will decide how to respond.

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