Recently, the city after-school community celebrated the work being done in after-school programs in the area and around the country, joining in the national Lights On After-school celebration.
But we all know there is more to do before every child who needs an after-school program has access to one. Our city Department of Youth & Community Development recently released a request for proposals for all of its Out-of-School Time programs. These programs are a source of support for children and families, and the major source of funding for after-school programs throughout the five boroughs.
More than $68 million is identified to be awarded through this competitive bidding process, and while this seems to be a large sum, it is a catastrophic reduction from previous years. Approximately $125 million feeds the same system now. Since these awards are to begin in September 2012, our community residents will have no idea what hit them until school starts and they find that the many established after-school programs will have disappeared.
Additionally, the current PEG reductions to the city budget continue to reduce the size and scope of other important youth and community serving programs, such as Beacon Centers. For many providers that have honorably delivered these crucial services, there is now the warning that some of these centers will be closed, depending on the need and exhibited by the ZIP code in which the program sits.
While we understand the need to tighten the belt, the continuous reduction of funding to programs that provide a lifeline to some families demonstrates a complete shift in priorities away from our most vulnerable. That means that despite the progress we celebrated in October, we still have miles to go.
And some of those miles need to be traveled in our minds and what we hold dear in our hearts. As a lifelong New York sports fan, I cannot help but do the math and note that these reductions to youth programs in the city budget, which will affect thousands of families, are equal to the salaries of maybe five of the top-tier athletes on some of my favorite teams.
After-school programs keep kids safe, inspire them to learn and help working families. In tough economic times like these, we need to be doubly sure that our children get the education and support they need to succeed in school and life.
Director of Youth Development Programs
The Child Center of NY