Devastating Cuts to After-School

Lucy FriedmanThe Executive Budget for New York City released today at City Hall shows a devastating toll on comprehensive, daily after-school programs that support kids’ well-rounded education all across New York. Here are the numbers by borough:

  • Staten Island families would suffer a net loss of six programs supported by New York City’s Out-of-School Time (OST) initiative
  • Queens families would suffer a net loss of 29 programs
  • Bronx families would suffer a net loss of 31 programs
  • Manhattan would suffer a net loss of 34 programs
  • Brooklyn would suffer a net loss of 72 programs

Campaign for Children

The system will fall from its peak of serving 60,000 elementary and middle school students after school in 2009, to just 27,000 next year if this budget is not amended. To take one example, out of all the elementary schools in the borough of Manhattan, it looks like only 16 will have OST-backed after-school programs next year.

This past week, programs that face closure began to get the news. Since then, we’ve been hearing nothing but distress from schools, parents and community organizations who feel that a trust has been broken.

Imagine that you’re a parent who chose a public school for your kids in part because it has a highly regarded, daily after-school program that’s been operating for five or eight or even 10 years. Now this week you’re learning that this extension of your child’s education that you’ve counted on—not to mention the safekeeping of your kids until 5:30 or 6 every day that school is in session—will vanish over the summer.

I’ve spoken before about how the magnitude of these cuts to New York’s OST system threaten quality, economies of scale, and the progress we’ve made toward expanding the time and ways kids can learn.

Today, I’m thinking of the shock waves rippling through schools, families and community organizations that have worked side-by-side with city government for years to improve the quality and sustainability of expanded learning opportunities. Principals and teachers have built critical working relationships with the community organizations that operate after-school programs in their schools. These community organizations are lifelines for families, supporting kids socially and emotionally against the hardships of poverty, helping students access mental health services or get the glasses they need to see their teachers, and giving kids extra academic support to be ready to move up to the next grade.

Now those relationships will be severed. I fear that as we dismantle the system, it could take years to build back again to what we’ve lost in talent, relationships and support for kids and families.

The city budget process is not over yet. Negotiations lie ahead. I have faith that our city leaders can find a way to save what many believe to be the best citywide after-school system in the nation, built by this Mayor and partners throughout the city.