New York is one of the most expensive cities to live in and currently, childcare is by far the greatest expense for most working parents. According to the National Association of Childcare resource & referral agencies, New York’s working parents have to dedicate 15.7% of their salaries to put children in childcare. Many working mothers are quitting their jobs because they literally cannot afford to work.
The New York State government offers subsidized childcare programs for young children, and out-of-school programs for older children. This helps working parents especially because schools in New York close two to three hours before most working parents finish their jobs for the day. For many parents who cannot afford to put their children in private childcare facilities, state funded childcare and after-school programs are a relief. This is not the case anymore.
Apart from the peace of mind parents derive from knowing their kids are in a safe place, childcare and after school programs give children an opportunity to improve on their studies, build social and life skills, and most importantly, help them stay out of trouble.
The Mayor’s current budget proposal will cut childcare and out-of-school programs slots for 47,000 children, a continuing trend in the last few years. The number of children from low-income families attending out-of-school time under the Department of Youth and Community Development’s Out-of-School Time (OST) program has dropped 40 percent from 90,000 in 2009 to 52,000 in 2012. In the Mayor’s budget proposal for next year, only 27,000 children will be enrolled in the OST program. Childcare has suffered a similar fate; the number of children benefitting from this service dropped from 51,712 in 2009 to 42,215 in 2012.
The aftershocks of budget cuts are already being felt. Come July, seven beacons are going to close. There are currently 80 beacon programs in New York City, each serving about 800 children, youth, and adults; they are accessible after school, weekends, school holidays, and throughout summer. Beacons are nationally celebrated, positive youth development programs that have been replicated nationwide. The beacon program is credited with reducing the rate of drop outs in high school. Continuous budget cuts mean that a lot of youth will not have an enriching place to go when class time is over.
What you can do to help:
There are several things you can do. The NYC Youth Alliance, an advocacy group for after school programs, and the Emergency Coalition to Save Child Care recently launched the Campaign for Children. Its aim is to pressure government to fund these essential programs. You can be a part of the conversation by emailing the Mayor and reminding him of something he said in his testimony to the State Assembly “what happens after the final school bell of the day rings is as important to students as what goes on in the classrooms.” This viewpoint is not quite translating into his budget blueprint.
You can also call your government representative and tell them what would happen to you if your OST program, or your kids OST programs, are defunded.
For more resources on the impact of budget cuts to out of school time, read this impact brief from The Campaign for Children.
Contributed by Grace Mwopa of the Human Services Council.