Thousands of New York City parents said they'd quit their jobs or leave their children home alone if they lost access to childcare and after-school problems, according to a new report by Campaign for Children, a coalition of local community organizations. The budget for 2013 proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg would eliminate after-school and childcare slots for more than 47,000 children. Advocates for children's services have been fighting the cuts since March, arguing that the effects would be devastating on families and the economy if the city government passes cuts in its final budget at the end of June.
The group's survey asked parents what they would do if they should lose after-school or childcare for their child. According to the report, more than half the parents who use childcare and more than a third with children in after-school programs said they'd quit their jobs to stay home with their kids; and 16 percent of parents with kids in after-school said they'd let their kids stay home alone. An additional 21 percent said they'd place their children with a relative.
Jennifer March-Joly, the head of the Citizens' Committee for Children and a member of the Campaign for Children, predicted that thousands of parents would turn to public assistance in order to provide for their children. "In worst case scenarios, families will become homeless or children will be separated from their parents," she said. "This can't be what New York City's leaders want for our communities."
Eslaynet Pena, a mother with two children in one of the after-school programs slated to lose funding, said she'd have to drop out of the graduate school program at Lehman College where she's studying for a master's degree in social work. That's the only way she'd be able to care for her kids, she said, and even then, she wouldn't be able to give them the sort of attention they get in their after-school program. "They have cooking, art, chorus," she said. "They get homework help. My daughter doesn't like to read, so they encourage her to read."
New York City's after-school system, known as Out-of-School Time, or OST, was established in 2005, with the purpose of helping to close the achievement gap. At the time it was introduced, Bloomberg was widely seen as one of the country's most outspoken proponents of after-school programs.
A spokesperson for the mayor's administration, Samantha Levine, says that "fiscal realities" have made the cuts necessary, and she points out that some of the cuts will come as part of a larger overhaul of the programs that could improve quality even as the number of students declines.
But many advocates remain baffled by the decision. "The results of this survey show the deeply troubling reality of what will happen to New York City if the cuts to childcare and after-school are not restored in the final city budget," said David Nocenti, the executive director of the community group Union Settlement. "This is a ripple effect that will harm our city's children, working families and economic stability."