As the $68.7 billion New York City proposed budget negotiations near the June 30 deadline, I cannot help but dread the fate that awaits thousands of children and families who desperately rely on the early childhood and after-school programs that are on the chopping block.
Forty-seven thousand children stand to lose their early childhood or after-school programs. The cuts will be particularly devastating to low-income children and their families. To put this dire situation in better perspective, I want to focus on Morrisania, a Bronx neighborhood we serve and one of the four communities with the largest loss of after-school programs if the cuts proposed in this dangerous budget are adopted.
Morrisania has among the lowest percentage of children receiving a high school diploma in the City, and just 27% of children in grades 3-8 are performing at grade level in reading.
What’s more, Morrisania has some of the City’s highest child poverty rates and has the fourth highest unemployment rate in all of New York City.
The after-school programs in this community provide a critical chance for children to receive academic support, including homework help and tutoring, and they promote positive engagement in school. These programs also help the economy by allowing parents to participate in the workforce and providing employment opportunities at the programs themselves.
How, then, can we justify the 91% reduction in programs slated for this already under-served community?
These have been difficult years for New Yorkers at the bottom of the economic ladder. We have already cut their services to the bone, and our waiting lists for these programs are the longest they have ever been. Further reductions will lead to the neglect of the very children whom the Mayor has championed in his philanthropy and public service.
The impact of these cuts will be felt immediately by families. Children will simply have nowhere else to go, and the working parents we serve will face unthinkable choices. Many will have to decide between going to work and providing for their loved ones or staying home and relying on public benefits if their early childhood and after-school programs are cut.
The Mayor’s budget says that needy children and working families aren’t priorities. I have joined several of my colleagues to launch the Campaign for Children to remind the Mayor otherwise. I urge you to join us — our children need all the support they can get.