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Lighting a Way to Save Beacon

Pols:Youth Pgm. Can Be Funded By State

With the city planning to close the Beacon after-school program at a Forest Hills school and several others across the city, four legislators have called upon Mayor Michael Bloomberg to restore funding to the initiative through an allocation from the state.

In a letter sent to the mayor on Apr. 17, Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, Assemblywoman Grace Meng, State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky and City Council Member Karen Koslowitz advised that the city should use $2.1 million of the $292 million in education funds allocated by the state toward rescuing the Beacon programs at J.H.S. 190 in Forest Hills and six other schools in the five boroughs.

The J.H.S. 190 Beacon program, sponsored by the Queens Community House, is scheduled to shut down in July if the funding is not restored in the final city budget.

Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed budget calls for the elimination of the Beacon programs-which offer a variety of after-school activities for area children-due to a $2.1 million shortfall in funding, according to the legislators’ letter.

“As you are also aware, that [$292 million] influx of money from the state, which was well above what the city had anticipated in original revenue projections, has no restrictions placed on it has to how it can be used” by the city Department of Education, the lawmakers wrote to Bloomberg. “It can be applied for any educational related expenditure, including Out of School Time programs like these seven Beacon programs.”

“We respectfully, but in the strongest terms possible, request that you immediately restore funding for these seven Beacon programs, which provide invaluable service to thousands of children and families in our communities,” the letter noted.

Two days after the letter was sent, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall repeated calls for the restoration of Beacon program funding during a rally last Thursday, Apr. 19, on the steps of Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens. The protest was held in conjunction with the Campaign for Children and the After School Corporation.

“Child care and after-school programs provide children with critical educational opportunities that pave the way for future success,” said Marshall. “Youngsters who attend these programs do better in school, are more likely to graduate and have lower incidents of violence, drug abuse and teen pregnancy.”

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