Cut, cut, cut. It seems never-ending, especially for schools. Class sizes are up in kindergartens; day cares are evaporating, and the latest threat is to K-12 Out of School Time (OST) after school programs. The Save After School Now Coalition (there really is a coalition for everything) rallied at City Hall last evening to speak out against the proposed $12.2 million cut to 150 after school programs, which would impact some 15,000 students.
“Working parents need to know that their children are in a safe place after school with enriching activities,” said Anthony Ng, Deputy Director of Policy and Advocacy for the United Neighborhood Houses, an advocacy group with a neighborhood-based approach. “We know that this investment is crucial.”
A group of about 200 youths and after school caretakers shouted “Yes for youth!” between speakers as OST program alumni, coordinators, current after school program participants, and city council members spoke about the importance of these programs. “Denying us of the after school program is telling us to take to the streets,” said Evan Wood, a current participant.
“They employ an awful lot of community members,” Christie Hodgkins, Program Director of a non-profit called CAMBA said of the OST programs.
The programs provide a wide range of after school activities like cooking, music, and sports. “I go for acting, music, and spoken word,” said Special Reynolds (Yes, we’re jealous of her name too), a high school student at the Lower Manhattan Arts Academy. She considers the instructors family. “The guys are like my brothers and the girls are like my sisters.” These instructors have helped her stay on the right track. “I get into mischief a lot, but the staff, they helped me respect myself and stuff.”
“In order for our project to be continued, we need this funding,” said Yafit Mullukandov, an alumna of the Bukharian Lounge OST program. She worries that her sister, who will enter high school in September, won’t have the same experience she had in the program, which provides SAT tutoring and college application help.
At the end of the hour-long rally, the Coalition presented 10,000 signed petitions in hope of staunching the budget cuts before they run deep enough to effect New York City youths and working families.