January 8, 2015
By Joe Manisclaco
New York, NY – More than a million kids throughout the state presently don't have a safe and engaging place to go after the school bell rings – but an infusion of new funding already pledged could go a long way to addressing the problem, while also creating thousands of new entry-level jobs in the process.
Although once a national leader, a new report called "America After 3PM" finds that the Empire State has reduced after school funding by almost 40 percent over the last five years.
Governor Andrew Cuomo had previously floated a $160 million after school funding package linked to new casino revenues to help close the gap. But that package has since evaporated, and it's unclear exactly what the chief executive plans for the new budget.
What is clear, however, is what $160 million could do for New York's working families. According to New York State After School Network [NYSAN] Director Nora Niedzielski-Eichner, the money could help extend after school programming to 110,000 kids, in addition to creating about 11,000 new jobs teaching those youths.
Most after school programs operate with a 1 to 10, or 1 to 15 staffing ratio.
"That's about 10 percent of the need, which is small in a certain sense, but huge in comparison to what we're currently addressing," the NYSAN leader told LaborPress. "The current state spending for after school is only $57 million."
Contrast that to Mayor Bill de Blasio and the nearly $340 million after school package Hizzoner was able to put together last year. Starting in October, 271 middle schools throughout the city are now enjoying after school programming that simply wasn't available before.
In September, NYPD officials said that the $15.6 million that Mayor de Blasio allocated over the summer to expand NYCHA community center activities had actually helped to reduce public housing crime by 14.4 percent.
A number of studies have already established a strong correlation between after school programming and lower crime.
"We hope that all of this will be the impetus for more investment at the state level," Niedzielski-Eichner added.
The need for more after school programming in New York City is clear. Just this week, a 17-year-old student in Councilman Jumaane Williams' 45th District in Brooklyn was shot walking home from school.
"Our youth should not fear being shot on their walk home from school," Councilman Williams said in a statement following the shooting. "This year, we must do more to ensure that they have safe places to learn and grow, while we simultaneously combat gun violence by dealing with our city's supply of guns, and the demand and penchant for violence."
Center-based after school programming in New York, however, is the most expensive in the country – and could cost cash-strapped families here as much as $11,000 a year.
With the governor's help, advocates say that more after school programming will not only provide kids with an alternative to the streets, it will also provide some with direct entry into the job market.
"A lot of folks being hired will be young people from the community in entry level positions," Niedzielski-Eichner said. "It's really a great way to get kids into the workforce."
After school advocates have engaged in talks with the governor in the lead up to the new budget, but they remain unsure of exactly how those efforts will play out.
"The governor has shown commitment to after school programs in the past, he's also funded the community schools initiative and expanded the learning time initiative, so we know it's something he's aware of, and we're hopeful there will be a proposal," Niedzielski-Eichner said. "But we don't know."