Cutting After School Care
The universe of unintended consequences is filled with smart people crunching numbers. I'm sure it wasn't intentional. No one meant to cut 2,000 school-age child care slots in the bid to save the city money. No one meant to transfer an important social service in short supply -- quality school-age child care programs -- away from families in economic need. But that's just what is happening as the city transfers funding for out-of-school-time child care centers from the Administration for Children Services (ACS) to the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD).
Frank Lombardi reports in the NY Daily News, "The ACS after-school programs contracted with local nonprofit day care centers, who used unionized staffs to provide structured care for the children at their centers. The cost per child was estimated at about $4,000. Under the new DYCD system, the after-school programs will be largely based in strategically located public schools and will use lower-salaried nonunion staffs. The cost per student has been estimated at about $2,000 a year. The controversial changeover was first proposed during a budget crunch in 2003 to save $15 million a year in operating costs. But there were delays in implementing the changes."
Sandy Socolar, Co-Chair of the Welfare Reform Network Child Care Committee, notes, "When OMB (Office of Management and Budget) came up with this cost-saving idea, 185 ACS child care centers were serving 9,600 young children from over 360 public schools and parochial schools -- with priority given to serving welfare-to-work parents and other low income working parents. It's appalling that this has been replaced with just 91 DYCD Year-Round OST centers providing free 'universal' care -- first come, first served -- for just 7,600 children from 160 schools. Out of 1,000 elementary schools in NYC, DYCD has given two-thirds of those 7,600 child care slots to just 51 schools -- and only 19 of them are schools that our ACS children go to."
For CUNY students receiving welfare the cut in childcare slots can devastate the dream of a college degree as a route out of poverty. If parents cannot get the after school child care programs they need, they will not be able to attend the classes their degrees require and finish the work study and internship hours the city requires them to do for their family's benefits.
For education to be a true priority in this city, a universal school-age childcare program would increase the supply of quality care, not diminish it; expand the number of qualified early childhood caregivers and not strain it. For education to be a true priority, we have to have policy-makers who will organize budgets to reflect our commitment to education. For policy-makers to organize better budget priorities, we need more leaders with a direct stake in the education system and an open eye on the prize.