Under the preliminary budgetary projections for the 2014 fiscal year, the Bloomberg administration has proposed nearly $130 million in cuts to afterschool and childcare programs, which could cost the parents of over 40,000 students in search of a new plan for their kids, according to the Campaign for Children.
The St. Nick’s Alliance, a non-profit grassroots movement intended to provide sustainability for low- to moderate- income individuals, organized the rally with students to secure funding for the programs, calling for its recognition as a baseline budget item.
Students who attend the Greenpoint and Williamsburg beacon centers from P.S. 34, P.S. 19, P.S. 18, M.S. 577, P.S. 132 and others, decorated signs and protested with their teachers and St. Nick’s Alliance coordinators around the park to John Ericsson M.S. 126.
Once inside, they met with parents and elected officials in the auditorium to discuss ways to save their programs.
Lai-Wan Wong, director of the St. Nick’s Youth and Education programs, hopes the large gathering will be enough this time around to end the yearly fight and protect the programs.
“We want to show community unity and force behind our families and kids,” Wong said. “After school is critical to our community, the economy and education and it is very important for families to keep Williamsburg and Greenpoint sustainable.”
Wong stressed that because the programs are so important to working parents in the city, it should be proposed discretionary funding no longer supports them.
“Afterschool funding is core,” she said. “It’s not something we need just this year, it’s something we need forevermore.
Children like 9-year-old Tyanna McGuire, a student from P.S. 18, came to the auditorium with their parents to let their voices be heard.
“They help us with our work,” McGuire said of the St. Nick’s Alliance’s beacon centers. “We are one big family and I am happy to be here.”
Following the testimonials, Councilwoman Diana Reyna said she would fight for the programs, as she herself knows the difficulties of raising her own two children at home.
“Speaking as a mother of two young boys, five and seven, I work practically every night, and I break my own rule of making home at least two times at night a week,” Reyna said. “When we’re not working, we have to provide for our children in one way or another and the intensity of our schedules.”
As an advocate for the St. Nick’s Alliance and their programs for children of families in her district, Reyna stressed the importance of learning from the past mistakes.
“Latchkey kids are not safe, they are unsupervised, it is when the greatest dangers can happen,” she explained of the historical problems in underfunded afterschool programming. “We have to learn from history and tell history, and we have to pass on that history.”
Councilman Steve Levin blamed the Bloomberg administration for proposed shortcomings in budgetary allowance for the programs, and stressed that if the current proposed budget were to pass, it would “decimate the program.”
“Afterschool programs and childcare programs we all depend on, whether you are a working family, single parent, senior citizen; this has not been a priority of this administration,” Levin said. “We have to fight every single year for a massive budget restoration.”
Levin also agreed that programs like the beacons are necessary and promised that he and the rest of the City Council support a long-term solution.
“We at City Council guarantee, and we promise you, that were going to fight for every program because this is what makes our city great.”