New Out-of-School Time (OST) and EarlyLearn NYC contract award recommendations — which embody staggering cuts to both after school and early childhood programs — will not focus services on those New Yorkers who need them most as the Bloomberg administration has claimed, according to a new report issued by the Campaign for Children. The report offers evidence showing that the Mayor’s cuts to child care and after-school programs will hit hardest in New York City’s most struggling communities, particularly those suffering from high rates of childhood obesity, rampant unemployment, low school achievement, and high rates of poverty.
The Campaign for Children report disputes the City’s claim that they have concentrated the cuts in “non-priority” or lower-need ZIP codes. In a case study on cuts to the Out-of-School Time (OST) after-school system, the report finds that the areas losing the most OST after-school programs are also
- Neighborhoods with the highest rates of childhood obesity: Washington Heights (MNHTN), Bushwick (BK), and Williamsburg/Greenpoint (BK).
- Neighborhoods with the lowest school achievement: Mott Haven (BX), Sunset Park (BK), Morissania (BX), Bushwick (BK), Highbridge (BX), Hunts Point (BX), East Tremont (BX), and Brownsville (BK).
- Neighborhoods with the highest rates of poverty and unemployment: Mott Haven (BX), Morissania (BX), Brownsville (BK), University Heights (BX), and South Crown Heights (BK).
Advocates emphasized that while the Mayor has taken aim at curbing obesity rates through banning large sugary drinks, he is simultaneously cutting programs that offer children from low-income communities healthy meals and recreational activities.
“As we look at how the cuts to child care and after-school will affect New York City’s most vulnerable children, how can our City’s leaders disagree that these cuts are unconscionable?” said Stephanie Gendell of Citizens’ Committee for Children, an advocate from the Campaign for Children. “Where there are hard-working parents struggling to make ends meet, and children without any other safe place to go, we simply cannot take away these essential programs.”
Included in the report is a map showing the neighborhood-by-neighborhood breakdown of cuts to the Out-of-School Time (OST) after-school system. The OST system was created by Mayor Bloomberg in 2005 as the nation’s largest and most cohesive after-school system, serving 85,000 children at its height in 2009. With this year’s proposed budget cuts, the OST system will be reduced by half. 191 programs will be forced to close, and only 25,000 children will have access to programs next year.
“Our after-school programs provide a structured, educational environment for children in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, and our curriculum includes dance and other recreational activities. Now the City wants to cut nearly two-thirds of our programs. If they lose their after-school programs, where will the children go? There is gun violence on our streets,” said Leslie Mantrone, Deputy Director of School and Community Based Programs at East Side House Settlement in Mott Haven. “In our community, these programs are a lifeline. We need to keep our children safe, active and learning, and we need to keep our parents in the workforce.”
“If I lose after-school for my son, I will have to go on public assistance just to make sure he has a safe place to be outside of school hours,” said parent Ada De la Rosa. “This decision would devastate me, but I have no other choice. Why would the City do this to hard-working parents who are already struggling just to get by?”
“I cannot help but dread the fate that awaits thousands of children and families who rely on the early childhood and after-school programs that are on the chopping block,” said Children’s Aid Society President and CEO Richard Buery. “The cuts will be particularly devastating to low-income children and their families, especially in neighborhoods such as Washington Heights and the Morrisania section of the South Bronx—two of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods—which will face alarming reductions in after-school programs of 67% and 91% respectively.”