May 31, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco

Preschoolers rally.
Sunset Park preschoolers send a message to the mayor.

Brooklyn, New York – A tiny army of Sunset Park preschools in danger of losing their seats if the New York City Council doesn’t act to restore $130 million in budget cuts by the July 1 deadline, stopped traffic outside Councilwoman Sara M. Gonzalez’ 5th Avenue office this week, in a bid to send outgoing Mayor Mike Bloomberg a message he can’t ignore. (Watch Video)

“If the cuts go through and the discretionary funding is not there, these programs may well not be there either,” said Alice Owens, Colony South Brooklyn Houses president. 

The Campaign for Children – a coalition of over 150 child care and after-school programs – is fighting to make sure that doesn’t happen, and that Colony South Brooklyn Houses, as well as a number of other vital local programs including Christ United Methodist Day Care and LMC Magical Years Day Care, keep their doors open and educators employed. 

Last year, following a tremendous pushback, the coalition was able to convince the Bloomberg administration and the New York City Council, to come up with the $150 million needed to prevent 47,000 children citywide from losing their pre-school and after-school slots.

Gonzalez’ efforts in that fight reportedly saved more than 150 of those slots in Sunset Park. 

But, it was a quick fix that did nothing to stem the tide of further budget cuts outlined in Bloomberg’s radical plan to remake NYC’s childcare and after school programs. 

“That was one year funding and it was not enough,” said Alyse Erman, deputy director of the community advocacy group called Sunset Park Promise Neighborhood. “What we need is to baseline this funding in the city council budget, so that every year we have support for our early childhood centers.”

Councilwoman Gonzalez called the threatened childcare and after-school programs “an essential service" that the city can ill-afford to lose. 

“Do we say, ‘Oh, we’re not going to pay our rent this week,’” Councilwoman Gonzalez said. “Do we say, ‘Oh, we’re not going to pay our utilities this week? Do we say we’re not going to eat today? That’s the way we need to treat children’s services in the City of New York. We need to let people know that we count, that our children are important, and that they are the future.”

This year, another $10 million in cuts to out-of-school time could also cause 5300 additional seats to disappear on top of the 47,000 already in jeopardy.

While childcare advocates are fighting to stave off immediate cuts to vital programs, they say that the next mayor is going to have to come to the grips with some form of long term and sustainable system that keeps kids learning. 

Despite oppressive heat and looming budget cuts,  the optimistic preschoolers cheerfully sang about their love of learning, and soon moving up to kindergarten. 



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