By Marian Wright Edelman, NNPA Columnist –
(NNPA) New York City parent Yvonne works as a home care attendant to help support her three-year-old son Darnell. While Yvonne is working, Darnell is enrolled at Franklin Square Head Start, part of Union Settlement in East Harlem, where he receives quality child care and is thriving. Earlier this year Yvonne received a letter saying Darnell would be dropped from the program on September 2, 2011. Yvonne can’t afford a private preschool and she can’t leave Darnell home alone. Without other affordable options, when September comes Yvonne will have nowhere for Darnell to go while she works.
On New York’s Lower East Side, Macology’s father MacDonald drops her off at the Lillian Wald Pre-School every morning after his night shift and her mother picks her up in the evening on the way home from her job. MacDonald and his wife are enrolled in school and working to support their three children. Quality child care like the Lillian Ward Pre-School, where Macology gets to participate in dance, music, and gym, is essential to their family. If Macology loses her preschool place in September her parents don’t know what they will do.
Darnell, Macology, and their parents are among thousands of families in limbo in New York City since Mayor Bloomberg announced a draconian cut earlier this year of 17,000 child care slots effective September 2nd. These cuts would hurt many working families with children. The city had already cut 14,000 slots since 2006 and currently only serves 27 percent of the children eligible for child care subsidies. Cutting another 17,000 spaces would make this sizeable shortfall even worse. Thousands of nurses, cashiers, home health aides, and small business employees would be in a bind as families who work hard and pay taxes wouldn’t be able to go to work because they were losing their child care. So the Children’s Defense Fund-New York (CDF-NY) joined dozens of other organizations to form the Emergency Coalition to Save Children and released a report protesting the Mayor’s drastic cuts. In early May, Mayor Bloomberg released a revised budget proposal that restored $40 million of the original $91 million that had been cut in funding. While a positive first step, this budget will still result in at least 7,000 fewer low-income children having access to early childhood opportunities next year. In addition, the budget increased the cut to after-school programming, leaving almost 16,000 youths without after-school services.
New York City’s debate reflects what’s happening across the country as states and cities try to balance budgets by cutting child care services for working families. In 36 states and the District of Columbia, the annual cost of center-based child care for a four-year-old exceeds the annual in-state tuition at a public four-year college. As costs continue to rise and families continue to struggle in this fragile economy, it is time for state and local governments to expand rather than cut access to early learning opportunities for children making it harder for parents to afford and find appropriate care. As Mayra Delgado, another New York City parent of a three-year-old and a legal assistant in a law firm, put it: “If the city takes my son out of child care, I won’t be able to keep my job and support my family. In tough times, the child care that working families depend on should be the last thing the Mayor and City Council cut.” I agree.
Read the report “When There is No Care: The Impact on NYC Children, Families and Economy When the Mayor Eliminates Child Care for 17,000 Children” and join the coalition in standing up for children and families.
Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children's Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to www.childrensdefense.org.