“Close after-school” followed by a resounding “No” could be heard for several blocks of 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights as about 50 children and program leaders from 82nd Street Academics marched up to the Jackson Heights Post Office on Thursday afternoon. There they were met with politicians and parents, all protesting Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed 50 percent budget cut, or $70 million, to after-school programs.
“Some parents have said they might have to give up their jobs because they have no one to watch their kids after school,” Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) said. “We cannot continue policies that place a larger burden on the working families of Queens.”
The city’s Department of Youth and Community Development runs the Out-of-School-Time program, which this year provided free after-school programs to 52,000 students. The proposed cuts would take away about 27,000 free after-school seats.
82nd Street Academics will not be directly affected by budget cuts, according to the program’s executive director, Ronald Tomkins; however, the school was there in protest of the cuts nevertheless. (The organization provides 110 free after-school seats at the Renaissance Charter School though state funding and 110 seats at the main campus paid for by tuition.)
“We are very much in support of after school even though we are not directly affected [by budget cuts],” Tomkins said. “My greater concern is that kids can go to college and after-school programs achieve that. I want that true not just in my backyard, but throughout the city.”
DYCD denied an application that 82nd Street Academics filed asking to provide 160 free after-school and summer seats at PS 69 in Jackson Heights. At the rally Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) received a petition with 1,300 signatures asking for the application’s approval.
“There is a misconception that it’s a baby-sitting program and it’s not,” mother of four Miledy Atibines said.
Another mother, Susanna Jones, echoed Atibines’ sentiments, saying that her kids learned how to build relationships at after-school programs, which was a valuable skill. Students at the rally made posters saying they learned responsibility, teamwork, kindness, respect and the like.
A neighborhood away a couple hundred residents and students joined Woodside on the Move, which provides after-school programs at PS 11 and PS 152, at another rally against proposed budget cuts on Wednesday.
The cuts would eliminate 400 free after-school seats and 300 summer program seats for student at the two public schools — or $1.3 million of funding.
“It means the end of free after-school programs for our families, many of which are working class, newly arrived immigrant families,” Executive Director of Woodside on the Move Adrian Bordoni said.
About 50 jobs at Woodside on the Move are also in jeopardy, Bordoni said. The group has collected about 500 signatures in its campaign against cuts to after school-programs.