New York City Council Members asked hard questions – and expressed some strongly worded negative opinions – about Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed cuts to after-school programs during a budget hearing yesterday. More than 32,000 young people will lose services due to the Mayor’s proposed elimination of approximately 220 Out-of-School Time (OST) and Beacon Programs.
Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) Commissioner Jeanne Mullgrav stated that budget pressures were forcing the cuts, “Since 2009, OST has experienced a significant loss of City, State and Federal funding,” she told the Council. “Funding decreased from $121 million for over 75,000 slots to $73 million for 27,000 slots in 2013.” As a result, a new round of OST contracts being recommended by DYCD will see the closing of many high quality programs. “Unfortunately, given the over 1,200 responses to the Request for Proposals, many proposals were not funded,” said Mullgrav. “This is not necessarily a reflection on the quality of their programming, but rather more a factor of limited resources and the high level of competition.”
“There cuts are penny wise and pound foolish,” said Council Member and Youth Services Committee Chair Lew Fidler. “They are a lost education opportunity and a lost economic opportunity. They will be devastating to families and children.”
“80% of problems our youth face are outside schools,” said Council Member Melissa Mark Viverito. “We need these programs to help solve the City’s problems. The disparity in this city continues to grow. The priorities are all upside down.”
“It’s disgraceful that poverty has grown in the City of New York under Mayor Bloomberg’s administration,” said Council Member Tish James.
“What is the cost of not funding Afterschool?” asked Council Member Brad Lander. “Will we spend more on juvenile justice?” He went on to talk about a boy in his district who had found himself in the Juvenile Justice system because his OST program had been cut.
“Have there been conversations about how these cuts will impact public safety?” asked Council Member Jumanaae Williams.
“I will vote no on the City Budget if cuts to youth services are not restored!”said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. “New York City will not accept cuts to vital youth services!”
“The cuts are totally unacceptable,” said Council Member Robert Jackson. “To have youth services decimated is unacceptable!”
Advocates offered “real time” reporting during the hearing via twitter comments using the #campaign4children hash tag.