February 25, 2011
By Bendix Anderson
To see how New York City’s day care system helps parents, take a look at the success of the Alonzo Daughtry #3 day care center which the city plans to close at the end of February.
“I have to take my son out of an environment that he really enjoyed,” said Jasmin Wright, a parent whose child attends Alonzo Daughtry #3. “He’s getting a great education here.”
On February 17, Mayor Bloomberg announced massive cuts in his proposed city budget that would permanently reduce the number of children attending New York City’s system of privately-run, city-subsidized day care centers by close to 17,000. That’s in addition to cuts that are already going into effect. Six day care centers serving more than 400 children will close at the end of February. Another eight day care centers serving more than 500 children will close end the end of June.
Hundreds of kids will be deprived of day care services that help begin their education and often help parents hold down jobs. Already less than a third of the children who qualify for day care have access to the program, according to child care advocates. The city will put the children who attend closing day care centers like Alonzo Daughtry #3 at the top of the waiting list at any other City-subsidized day care centers. For Jasmin Wright’s child, that will mean a long bus ride from his Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood to downtown Brooklyn to another day care center run by the same company, Alonzo
Daughtry Child Services.
The children already waiting to attend these day care centers will have to wait even longer. Many centers, like the Alonzo Daughtry Center downtown, have waiting lists with more than 100 children waiting for a “slot” even though a typically day care center only has room for 50 to 100 children in a program year. Since 2002 the city has already closed or co-located 38 day care centers. That’s a reduction of close to 2,500 children receiving day care services, not including the centers planned to close this year.
Officials claims the closings are simply a response to high rents for spaces. If that’s true, the city could still shorten waiting lists by expanding the number of children served at day care centers that are still open and have room to grow, like Alonzo Daughtry’s downtown site. Officials have refused to consider such a move. “What they wanted to do is slash spots and slash staff,” says Karen Daughtry, executive director of Alonzo Daughtry Child Services.
It’s a strange reward for a successful program, says Daughtry. Advocates say the program even provided a model for the national Head Start program. Alonzo Daughtry #3 is a particular model of success the City asked Alonzo Daughtry to take over the day care center two years ago. The private company cleaned up the building, inspired a demoralized staff, and won the loyalty of the parents, said Daughtry. “I love the company that runs this place,” said Wright.
Parents are so loyal that 30 of them continue to bring their children here every day in hopes the center will be spared by the City and remain open, even though the City announced its plans to close the center almost six months ago. Most of the children at the other five day care centers closing at the end of February have left. The classrooms are silent. But Alonzo Daughtry #3 is still in business, with lights in the classrooms and children still singing and playing… for now.