May 24, 2012
By Marc Bussanich, LaborPress City Reporter
The deadline to pass the City’s budget is nearing. The City Council is tasked with passing a $68 billion dollar budget by June 30. That’s a lot of dough, but Mayor Bloomberg’s budget calls for further cuts to subsidized early child care. On the steps of City Hall on Wednesday, May 23 children who are at risk of losing access to early childcare services presented letters and petitions to the Mayor to stop the impending cuts.
LaborPress caught up with the Mayor on the steps of City Hall.
“Mayor Bloomberg, what would you say to a parent whose child will no longer have access to subsidized early child care?”
“You’ll have to ask the people who held the press conference,” said the Mayor.
The FY 2013 proposed budget slashes 47,000 low-income and middle-class children from the City’s subsidized child care and Head Start programs, according to the union. In addition, some 9,000 of these cuts will result from the Mayor’s EarlyLearn program. If the cuts go through about 1,700 DC 1707 members’ jobs are at risk. But the union is not standing still. It filed an injunction in Federal Court to stop the implementation of EarlyLearn, which a judge still needs to render a decision. Also, the union is working with City Council members, which ultimately vote yea or nay on the final budget.
Luz Santiago, Director of Day Care and Head Start for DC 1707, which represents about 25,000 union members working in day care and Head Start facilities, said she’s been visiting different centers to gauge the response from the centers slated to close by October 1 and learned that DC 1707 members are expressing frustration and animosity.
Interestingly, the Williams Bridge Day Care Center in the Bronx offers early child care services in the same building where the Crawford Community Day Care resides. According to Santiago, the City is pitting one provider against another because while Crawford received a contract via the EarlyLearn proposal on May 4, Williams Bridge did not, which has been providing early child care services for decades.
Topping that, Crawford will be taken over by Kingsbridge Community Center, which will continue to provide the same early childcare services using the same space Crawford used in the same buidling while Williams Bridge is slated to close.
“Because of the Mayor’s EarlyLearn proposal, there is animosity among our members because they’ve been working at Williams Bridge for some time, which didn’t receive an award to provide services while Crawford did,” said Santiago.
Council Member Charles Barron, who represents East New York in Brooklyn where six child care centers are slated to close, spoke at the presser.
“The Mayor messed up with City Time [the project name to streamline employee timekeeping] and the company [Science Applications International Application] is paying back $611 million dollars to the City,” said Barron.
Barron implored the Mayor to use the $611 million to finance early child care and also rehire 642 school aides, members of Local 372 of DC 37, which purportedly saved the City $19 million dollars when it decided to fire the school aides last year.
Barron emphasized that money is available as there is “plenty of dollars coming in from Wall Street.”
“There are no budget crises in the City. Rather, it’s a matter of the prioritization of spending. We always have money for sports teams to build new stadiums or arenas, but not for day care or senior centers,” said Barron.
Barron added, “The City Council passes the budget. We need to say no to any budget that has draconian cuts for children.”
Li Jung Chan, a DC 1707 member and assistant teacher at the Chinese-American Planning Council, said the agency serves about 2,000 children in early childcare and after-school programs in Chinatown.
However, the EarlyLearn awards will eliminate almost 700 slots at the agency for both early childcare and after-school programs and result in job losses for about 100 DC 1707 members, according to Li. firstname.lastname@example.org