Laurie Crutcher is a parent and a program officer at TASC (The After School Corporation). Her story originally appeared on the TASC blog.
My daughter Emilie, who just turned 11 years old, will be attending JHS 190 Russell Sage in the fall. One of the deciding factors in my family's decision to send her there was the fact that the school has a Beacon after-school program.
I myself, upon moving to New York City in 1999, worked in a Beacon program in Sunnyside, and know the great service they provide to working parents and their kids. The JHS 190 Beacon is a place where my daughter feels safe and supported. She attended a Saturday program here and has fond memories of playing handball in the gym. The organization that runs the program, Queens Community House, has strong roots in the community and in youth programming, which makes me comfortable sending her there.
Now, we learn our Beacon is slated for closure, as are six other Beacons around New York City. If this happens, where will Emilie go after her school dismisses at 2:30? Will she walk home and stay alone until my husband and I get home from work? Every day, I walk past flowers left in memory of a middle school girl who was hit by a car in my neighborhood as she walked home from school.
Like any parent, I would rather Emilie be in a place where she has the opportunity to socialize with other kids and to be around caring adults who can help her acclimate to the trials of middle school, a new experience that both excites and scares her. Not to mention having the chance to engage in activities, like handball, that she loves and that keep her active.
In this day and age, when parents both have to work, where is the concern for our children's safety and well-being? And if we close these centers now, what price might we have to pay down the road?
Mayor Bloomberg's proposed budget -- to be voted on by the City Council by June 30 -- restores teaching positions but includes significant cuts to after school and childcare programs. These cuts will take "a devastating toll on working families across the city: 47,000 children are at risk of losing their after-school or child care programs," according to TASC. A survey of parents shows that 16 percent of families who will lose their after school programs said they would leave their children home alone; 36 percent said they would quit their jobs. Half of the parents who now use child care said they would have to stop working to stay home with their kids.
What can working parents do to try to fend off the cuts? The Campaign for Children suggests these actions:
- Email the Mayor and City Council
- Share On Facebook
- Tweet to Save Child Care and After-school
- Share Your Story
- Download Grassroots Toolkit