This post is courtesy of Richard Buery, Jr., president of The Children’s Aid Society, and originally appeared on the Manhattan Viewpoint blog.
On Thursday, Mayor Bloomberg announced his $68.7 billion budget proposal, and for the fifth straight year, his budget slashes early childhood and after school programs.
With Wall Street tax revenues lower than predicted and our city still recovering from the economic downtown, I understand that the city has difficult choices to make, but decimating these critical programs for children is just the wrong choice.
From his Young Men’s Initiative to improve outcomes for young people of color, to his plans to serve juveniles in supportive programs here in New York City rather than upstate juvenile jails, to the groundbreaking poverty-fighting initiatives of his Center for Economic Opportunity, the Mayor has demonstrated his sincere commitment to the poor and working-class children of New York City. And while I haven’t agreed with every element of his education reform policies, he has bravely asked to be judged as the “education mayor.” Our expectations of what a public education system can and should be expected to deliver for poor children have been changed forever.
That is why the mayor’s proposed cuts to early childhood education and after-school programs make absolutely no sense. We all understand how important it is to keep kids engaged and on track beginning at a very early age. Every $1 spent on high-quality early childhood programs for a disadvantaged child creates up to$9 in future benefits — in new taxes collected and more productive workers, and fewer dollars spent on publicly subsidized health care, prisons and the like. A great early childhood program prepares students for school — any kindergarten teacher can tell you about the importance of these resources.
Quality after-school and summer programs are similarly critical for children’s development. A study by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids New York found that the majority of juvenile crime occurs between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Children who are consistently involved in stimulating, educational activities grow up to be smart, safe and productive members of society. They are more likely to go to college, get jobs, support their families and less likely to end up on the streets, involved in gangs or in prison. After-school programs not only help children succeed in school, but they also keep them off of the streets.
Once upon a time, the Mayor understood this. He has said, “Teaching doesn’t stop when the last school bell rings.” He created the city’s Out-of-School Time initiative, a nationally recognized effort to bring high-quality after-school and summer programs to kids, declaring that what happens after school is as important as what happens during the school day.
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