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Penny Wise and Pound Foolish: NYC’s Budget Cuts to Leave Lasting Wounds

On March 5th, I joined my colleagues on the steps of City Hall to launch the Campaign for Children to protest the mayor’s massive budget cuts to early childhood and after-school programs. I understand that the mayor and the city will have to make difficult choices during the coming budget cycle, but decimating these critical programs for children is the wrong choice.

As the mayor 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. From his efforts to remake the schools to his Young Men’s Initiative to reverse poor outcomes for young people of color, the mayor has consistently demonstrated his commitment to New York City’s children.

That is why the mayor’s proposed cuts to early childhood education and after-school programs are so jarring. We all understand how important it is to keep kids engaged and on track beginning at a very early age. 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.

The combined effects of the mayor’s proposed budget and structural changes to both the early childhood and after-school systems will eliminate programs for more than 47,000 children. This is the latest in a series of reductions. Come September, a total of 90,000 kids will have lost their early childhood or after-school programs since 2009 — a 2/3 reduction. I am not aware of any other program that has been forced to absorb cuts at that scale.

The proposed cuts will be particularly devastating to low-income children and their families. One in three children in New York, and two in three public school children, live in poverty. We’re talking about real lives lost here: consider Chastity, 17, a Children’s Aid Society student who is now a successful high school student in the Bronx. Growing up facing homelessness, she cites her after-school program as a “shoulder to lean on” with open doors. With literally nowhere else to go, it was a safe place for her to do her homework. Those doors are slamming on children all over the city.

Or consider parents such as Lilibet, raising two sons, working full-time and living paycheck to paycheck. For her, these programs mean the difference between going to work and supporting her family or staying home and relying on public benefits. She’s able to keep her job only because she knows that her children have a safe place to go after school. Every New York City parent understands how expensive child care is. As we continue to struggle through an economic recovery that has yet to reach many New Yorkers, we can ill-afford to remove such a basic lifeline.

Even in difficult financial times, we shouldn’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Safe, reliable and affordable early childhood and after-school programs are critical to our current and future economy. 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 study by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids New York found the majority of juvenile crime occurs between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. After-school programs not only help children succeed in school, but they also keep them off of the streets.

As a long-time provider of early childhood and after-school programs, I can tell you that vital services to vulnerable children have been cut to the bone. Further reductions will devastate the very children who the mayor has championed in both his philanthropy and public service. The mayor has — bravely and correctly — asked us to judge his success by the success of our children. We should all urge him to keep his promise to our city by investing in the next generation of New Yorkers — now more than ever.

Richard Buery is the President and CEO of the Children’s Aid Society.

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Article source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-buery/early-childhood-after-school-new-york_b_1369936.html

School Budget Cuts: How Students Say Slashes Are Affecting Them

As school districts are facing massive budget cuts across the country, school programs, teachers and students are taking the hit.

Across the country, 120 school districts had, as of October, moved to four-day school weeks while others are canceling field trips, shuttering after-school programs and charging students to play sports.

The cuts are seen in Keller, Texas, where the district opted for a pay-for-ride transportation system versus cutting busing as a whole; In Georgia, where 20 days were slashed from the pre-kindergarten academic year; In California, where nearly half the districts axed or whittled away at art, drama and music programs.

But these are all reports from school officials — from the top down. To get a sense of how these cuts are really changing things, Teen newspaper L.A. Youth went straight to the source — students. They asked readers about budget cuts at their schools, and received more than 1,850 teen responses.

943b6 SCHOOL SURVEY School Budget Cuts: How Students Say Slashes Are Affecting Them

The survey asked students a series of 15 questions. Findings showed that nearly 60 percent of all students had to hand-copy information from an overhead because the school couldn’t afford paper to make copies. Half of all students also reported that their school didn’t have enough computers or functional computers, nor were their enough textbooks for each student.

School infrastructure showed to suffer the most in areas like restrooms, graffiti-covered walls, internal heating and cooling and classrooms and desks. Students also reported having to personally pay for sports uniforms more than other school items.

Most telling is the discrepancy between what students think schools should cut versus what school officials have on their to-ax lists. The top three items students said schools should cut are school newspaper or broadcast outlets, summer school and field trips — in that order. The last items on students’ “should-cut” lists, starting from the bottom, are teachers, administrators, “other,” guidance counselors and sports — all items that schools have shown to most commonly choose to cut first.

943b6 SCHOOL SURVEY School Budget Cuts: How Students Say Slashes Are Affecting Them

And of the respondents, 97 percent said they are planning to attend college, and 64 percent plan to apply to an in-state four-year public institution. Although just 13 percent said budget cuts affected their ability to get the classes they need to graduate, cuts to just programs and teachers — leading to fewer opportunities and larger class sizes — have shown to affect students’ college readiness.

According to a report released last October by the Campaign for America’s Future, evidence suggests that cuts to education funding are leading to cutbacks from early childhood education programs, increases in class sizes and termination of art, music, physical education and other elective subjects. Special programs are also being cut as a result — including those that assist students with special needs as well as Advanced Placement courses, extracurricular activities and special academic programs for science, foreign language and technology.

943b6 SCHOOL SURVEY School Budget Cuts: How Students Say Slashes Are Affecting Them

Mifflin County, Pa. is no exception to the phenomenon, according to PBS NewsHour. Facing a 12 percent drop in state funding and declining enrollment, the school district has closed 40 percent of its schools, dismissed 11 percent of its staff, increased class sizes and decreased the number of courses offered.

The $4 billion in cuts to Texas public schools last summer led to a huge hit to unemployment as hundreds of educators were laid off. An estimated $5 billion cut from California’s education budget would start with a hit to school busing programs.

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Article source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/14/la-youth_n_1277182.html

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    Welcome , today is Thursday, April 17, 2014