Budget cuts to after school programs across the city have left local school administrators and parents demanding answers. But as the Bloomberg administration remained tight-lipped, Councilmember Steve Levin hammered away at the Mayor for tightening the purse strings on a critical city service.
“It shows the callousness, at times, of the Bloomberg administration,” said Levin. “We’re the wealthiest city in the country with a budget of close to $70 billion and a Department of Education that has a $24 billion budget. How can it be that we do not place after school as a priority in our neighborhoods?”
The Bloomberg administration is proposing a budget cut of $18.2 million for Out of School Time programs, which currently serve over 50,000 students in New York City. This would leave roughly 24,000 students without after school care. Brooklyn will bear the brunt of the cuts, with 77 of the 154 OST programs slated for the chopping block.
The prospect of losing much-needed after school care has left some parents in a panic. Dawn Garcia, the mother of a child at PS 34 on Norman Avenue, said she would do whatever it takes to keep her son’s after school program operational.
“I’m a single mother and my support system is this program,” said Garcia. “I go to school, I have a full-time job. For people like me who don’t have babysitters, it’s very important. We’ve got to fight for it, if that’s what it takes.”
John Galvin, an assistant principal at IS 318, found it ironic that a week after Mayor Bloomberg congratulated and posed for photos with the school’s chess team after they won the National High School Chess Championship, their program was deemed disposable.
“Our program was good enough to be thanked by the mayor personally at City Hall and to recognize what an achievement the kids had accomplished,” said Galvin. “To find out a week later that the budget axe had fallen on our program was pretty cruel.”
Education advocates say that the OST budget cuts imposed in the city mirror those on the federal level, and many feel that local and state governments are pinching pennies where they are needed most: for the educational future of the next generation.
“The value of the after school experience has clearly been demonstrated, both in terms of children’s academic performance and the ability to allow parents to work and provide support for their families,” said Michael Rochford, Executive Director of the St. Nick’s Alliance.
Levin has vowed to bring the fight to the Mayor’s doorstep as the city prepares its budget for the coming fiscal year. He anticipates that the City Council will be unified in their support to continue funding for OST.
“This is the number one priority for the City Council this budget year,” said Levin. “Things are going to heat up in the next month, and I’m going to fight as hard as I can to make sure these programs are restored, one hundred percent.”