Hours before the mayor and City Council agreed on a budget last Friday, June 2, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley led a rally with cheerleaders from the Greater Ridgewood Youth Council (GRYC) and P.S. 71 in Ridgewood demanding that over $16 million for after-school programs not be cut, but expanded.
The councilwoman led the cheer team in a chant: “What do we want?” she asked. “Our fair share,” the kids responded. “When do we want it?” Crowley asked. “Now!” the children demanded.
Before the fiscal year 2018 budget was finalized, there was a planned $16 million cut to vital elementary after-school programming, which would take away essential programs for nearly 7,000 kids across the city. However, when the budget was finalized later that day — the earliest handshake agreement on a balanced city budget since 1992 — the $16 million for after-school programs was restored.
“Nearly $17 million has been taken out of the city budget, and that pays for after-school programs throughout the city of New York for elementary schools,” Crowley said at the June 2 rally in Ridgewood. “We’re here today to demand that that money gets restored; and not only do we want it restored, we want that funding expanded because the kids at [P.S.] 71 have to pay for their after-school program.”
The staff at P.S. 71 created their own study of students’ Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI) and Lexia reading scores both before and after they began participating in the after-school program with GRYC, and the results were impressive.
When the school year began, most students lacked the basic skills in a variety of activities including, dance, drama, basketball, cooking, cheerleading and soccer. By May, students levels skyrocketed to at least basic skills in each of the categories charted.
“They’re learning every day,” said Jennifer Lopez, president of P.S. 71’s parent association. “They’re learning how to make healthy meals. They’re receiving healthy snacks. And the partnership we have with Greater Ridgewood, we are very, very thankful for.”
The after-school program offered by GRYC runs five days a week from dismissal to 5:30 p.m. If the city budget does not include the $16 million for after-school programs, the program — which was started only two years ago and serves between 100 and 200 kids — will end on June 30.
President of GRYC, Bob Monahan, wants to see the partnership with P.S. 71 continue with the potential funding from the city. Right now, parents are footing the bill to the tune of approximately $125 each month per child.
“We are trying to reduce the cost to the parents because they’re really hard-working folks,” Monahan said.