“Save my after-school! Save our future!” No, this is not the tag line of some new Heroes-esque show on NBC; it’s what I.S. 89 students, counselors and faculty shouted as executive director of Manhattan Youth Bob Townley led them up Warren Street and across the West Side Highway last Thursday.
The reason for their stroll: They’re protesting cuts to after-school and summer youth programs, the elimination of which is part of Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed plan to help offset New York City’s ballooning $3.5 billion deficit.
According to Downtown Express, Bloomberg’s cuts would deprive The Department of Youth and Community Developmentâ€™s (DYCD) Out-of-School Time (OST) Program of $6.9 million in funding for the 2011 fiscal year. That means Manhattan Youth would lose roughly $130,000 in city funding that currently goes toward its free I.S. 89 after-school program in BPC. And I.S. 89 is not alone: The after-school programs of 32 other schools across the city are also in jeopardy.
It’s not hard to understand why these proposed cuts have generated so much ire across the city, especially when one considers that the programs in danger aren’t meant to keep kids occupied while their mothers attend spin classes at Soul Cycle or enhance their complexions with avocado peels at upscale spas. No, these programs often benefit lower-income families who need their kids to have something to do in the afternoon while they work. You know, so they can put food on the table.
Also important to remember is that the programs keep kids off the street and out of trouble… and give them a valuable way to spend their time. In fact, part of Thursday’s protest included a play, entitled Madwoman of Tribeca, put on by the I.S. 89 students in front of I.S. 234, to showcase the creative benefits of the after-school programs.
If Thursday’s protest, which drew 400 people from I.S. 89, P.S. 269, P.S. 172 and P.S. 1, is any indication, there are a lot of people out there willing to fight to keep the programs alive. Even if Bloomberg’s budget passes and city funding disappears, the programs could live on, with parents paying a fee to enroll their children. It’s not ideal… but, then again, what is these days?