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Op/Ed: Help Save After School Programs, Attend Town Hall Meeting Tomorrow

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Editor’s note: the following article is from City Council Member Margaret Chin. The video posted above was produced by the Campaign for Children NYC.

The urgent email from an elementary school principal on the Lower East Side was accented with questions: how will parents find affordable childcare? Who will want to enroll at our school? Will our children be sent out into the street?

These questions were repeated over and over again, at P.S. 2, P.S. 20, P.S. 124, P.S. 142, P.S. 137, P.S./I.S. 140 and at M345, as one by one, principals were told that their after-school programs had been eliminated. Unfortunately, for some principals, this was not the first time that they had lost an after-school program due to budget cuts. However, it is the first time that programs run by venerable institutions with their roots in the Lower East Side, such as Henry Street Settlement, University Settlement, Educational Alliance, Vision Urbana, and Chinese American Planning Council, had been wiped out of their own neighborhood.

Out of the ten city-subsidized after-school programs operating south of Houston Street, seven will be forced to close their doors if Mayor Bloomberg fails to restore $22.1 million in cuts to out-of-school time (OST) funding in this year’s budget. This deficit is made up of the failure to fund City Council restorations of $12.5 million for OST programs in this year’s budget; a $6 million, or 7 percent reduction, in the OST budget in November 2011; and cutbacks in funds for OST contracts for 2013. Three after-school programs will remain in lower Manhattan, however it is still unclear how many slots will be funded in each of these programs.

Under the Bloomberg administration, after-school programs have shrunk from a height of over 85,500 slots in 2009 to just 27,000 in 2013; a 61 percent decrease. If the Bloomberg administration fails to restore funding for after-school programs in the Executive Budget, over half of the present OST sites in the City will be closed. In the Lower East Side and Chinatown, that number is closer to 70 percent.

Our community must stand united against these debilitating cuts to after-school programs. If these cuts are allowed to continue, it is not only the students that will suffer. Working families and single mothers will have no choice but to quit their jobs or turn to expensive private childcare arrangements – or if they cannot stretch their already strained paychecks any further – leave their children at informal daycare or alone in the afternoon hours. Families in our community cannot afford to pay upwards of $100 per child per week for private childcare arrangements – nor should they have to.

It is time that taxpayers see the dividends of their contributions to this City at work in their everyday life. Daycare and after-school programs should be universal for all New York City residents. If the Mayor is serious about giving younger generations the tools they need to compete on an international level, then we must ensure our public education system operates far beyond the 3:00 p.m. dismissal bell.

Our community cannot afford to have thousands of elementary and middle school students growing up unsupervised in the afternoon hours. Cuts to after-school programs will have ripple effects throughout our community. As these programs become more scarce, the demand for these services will only grow. As we have seen over and over again as funding for childcare services is cut, unlicensed and illegitimate networks of care spring up to fill the gap. Schools that lack after-school programs will be less desirable, which could lead to decreased enrollment, and ultimately, co-location or phase out of small neighborhood schools.

Children will not have access to the federally funded meals that they receive in after-school programs, thus placing another burden on family finances. In extreme cases, parents – and especially single mothers – may be forced to quit their job and turn to unemployment or public assistance in order to care for their children.

The loss of after-school programs also means the loss of jobs. These are not abstract jobs that are being lost in an economist’s calculations somewhere. These are real jobs in our community. After-school programs are staffed by teachers, cooks, and aides, many of whom are our neighbors. The jobs that are lost will disproportionately be the jobs of single mothers and women of color.

This year, our City stands to lose 25,000 after-school seats; nearly 16,000 child care slots; 159 beds for homeless and runaway youth; 20 fire companies; and 40 library branches, just to name a few of the cuts that primarily serve to low-income, working families, and minority neighborhoods. But that is not all we stand to lose. If we allow the Bloomberg administration to keep whittling away at the foundations of our community, then we risk losing the character, stability, and the diversity of our neighborhoods.

Please join me in fighting against these irresponsible and misdirected cuts to after-school programs in our communities. Call “311” to complain about cuts in your neighborhood and write to Mayor Bloomberg urging a full restoration. Whether you are a student or a senior, a parent or not, a long-time resident or a newcomer to our community; a cut to after-school funding is a cut to a service that we all rely on to keep our City strong.

Council Member Margaret Chin in association with Lower East Side Settlement Houses and the Campaign for Children host

Town Hall to Stop the Cuts to After-School and Daycare Programs

Thursday May 3, 2012 at 6 PM             

P.S. 137/134 – 293 East Broadway

Co-sponsored by:

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, Council Member Rosie Mendez.


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