While Queens education advocates and legislators praised Mayor Bloomberg for restoring close to 2,600 teaching positions in the executive budget he released last week, they panned his proposal to axe funding for after-school programs throughout the city, including 29 sites in the borough.
The mayor’s $68.7 billion proposed budget, which must be approved by the City Council before any of its measures are implemented, does not cut 2,570 teachers through attrition, as Bloomberg originally proposed earlier this year, but it does slash about $170 million to children’s services. The cut in youth funding could result in the number of after-school programs in Queens to drop from 81 to 52, according to the Campaign for Children. Additionally, seven Beacon programs — essentially community centers for children and adults — in the city would be closed, including one at JHS 190 in Forest Hills and another at MS 58 in Bayside.
Thousands of Queens children in neighborhoods throughout the borough stand to be impacted. The two Beacon sites alone serve more than 2,000 students in their after-school programs.
“In this challenging economy, our center was already doing the best we could to provide quality services with the disproportionately small funding available to serve our community,” said Grace Yoon, the executive director of the Korean American Family Service Center in Flushing. “Now, the funding source has dried up and our children are left with nowhere to go after school ends. These kinds of decisions by Mayor Bloomberg to take away funding from our children and youth does not send them the message that we believe that they are the future and are individuals worth investing in.”
Legislators also slammed the mayor for proposing to eliminate funding for after-school programs that they said give thousands of children with working parents a place to go in the afternoon and evening, during which time they can do everything from receive homework help to play sports.
“Let me be clear — although I am grateful for the progress we’ve seen in the mayor’s executive budget, I still have deep concerns about how the remaining cuts will impact the lives of working New Yorkers and their families,” Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) said in a prepared statement.
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall joined the chorus of lawmakers critical of the mayor’s budget.
“In tough economic times, the last thing that we should be slashing are essential early education and after-school services that children and hard-working families need to survive,” Marshall said.
Less controversial than Bloomberg’s call to cut youth services is the restoration of about 2,570 teaching positions in his budget.
“New York City has lost thousands of teachers over the last few years, and it’s good news to hear that we will be adding educators to the system,” United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said. “I can’t thank the City Council enough for making education a priority.”