With After-School Programs Facing Cuts, Working Parents Worry

Parents and children at Public School 134 demonstrate against Mayor Michael Bloomberg's cuts to after school programs across the city. (Photo by Julie Shapiro/DNAinfo)

At protests and in conversations across New York City, parents and children expressed anger at proposed city cuts that would eliminate nearly 200 after-school programs — and the community and ethnic media were on hand to capture the outpouring.

At Public School 134 in the Lower East Side, where sports programs are to be cut, more than 500 protesters voiced their disapproval, DNAinfo reported. Working parents said they rely on the program.

“It’s a safe haven for [the children] to come to,” said Maria Casiano, 37, a Lower East Side resident whose daughter attends the after-school program at P.S. 134. “It’s horrible,” she added of the cuts, “a lot of parents need it.”

Yasmin Bracero, 30, a single mom, said that without P.S. 134’s free after-school program, there wouldn’t be anyone to watch her 9-year-old son.

“I rely on it to be able to go to work,” said Bracero, who is a general manager of a homeless shelter. “Without this program, I wouldn’t have a job.”

Several elected officials also joined the fray, The Lo-Down reported.

Noting that the Lower East Side/Chinatown would lose 70% of its after school “seats,” Chin said, “I need to be able to count on you. Call the mayor, call 311… This is a call to action.”   Silver added, “make sure every one of you is heard at City Hall.”  Velazquez said, “working families are under attack… we work hard to bring (federal) resources to the city… now the city needs to do what is right.”

Henry Street Settlement, a Lower East Side social service organization, will take a big blow, The Lo-Down reported.

The city is planning to pull funding from five of its programs. Among the potential casualties: Henry Street’s Boys & Girls Republic community center on East 6th Street.  The center is one of the few safe refuges for kids living along Avenue D and has recently been a focal point of the Manhattan District Attorneys office, which has launched an anti-violence recreational program at the facility.

In an interview yesterday, David Garza, Henry Street’s executive director, called the funding cuts “an assault” on working families. “When there’s no stable (after school) support system, parents cannot stay employed and they cannot properly care for their children,” he said.

Representatives from the Chinese community said they too will feel the pain under the new budget, World Journal reported. The Chinese-American Planning Council, another local social service organization, will lose four after school programs, three in Manhattan.

CPC’s Executive Director David Chen said that although day care programs, after school programs, and Beacon Center programs take up a budget of $170 million, this amount represents a very small portion of the entire budget.  He added that, at the same time, these programs are very important for the community.  Unfortunately, he said the seven after school programs under CPC will be reduced to three this fall.  These three remaining programs will also face budget constraints.

“City Hall has to give us funds to stay afloat,” he said angrily.

In Upper Manhattan, Washington Heights and Inwood will also lose services, DNAinfo reported.

According to [Inwood Community Services, Inc. spokesman Angelo] Ortiz, Washington Heights and Inwood could see a cut from 18 “Out of School Time” after school programs to six.  That means 1,200 elementary and middle school year-round program slots for children would be gone in Community Board 12’s district as of Sept. 1, Ortiz said.

“It isn’t just about youth and families, but our local economy,” Ortiz wrote in an email. “This is money that has been spent in our district that is spent in our local businesses, that have built the professional youth service capacity of hundreds of employees who will be out of the job, money that helped to keep scores of our young adult employees in college.”

Across the river in Brooklyn, almost half of the borough’s 153 free after school programs will be cut, leaving many working families desperate for alternatives, DNAinfo reported.

[Lai-Wan Wong, director of the Youth and Education division of the local nonprofit St. Nick’s Alliance] noted that many Brooklyn parents said they would be forced to leave their children at home alone without an after-school program, citing a recent survey by the Campaign for Children in New York City.

In the survey of nearly 600 Brooklyn parents, 32 percent of the families said they would quit their jobs to stay home with their kids and 28 percent said they would leave their children home unattended once the after-school programs were cut.

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