Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council reached a budget agreement on Monday that increases city funding for child care and after-school programs, but it may not be enough to help the Bloomingdale Family Program’s Head Start program on the Upper West Side, which is projected to shut down in the fall.
The budget agreement adds about $150 million in combined funding to the Administration for Children’s Services’ (ACS) child care program and the Department of Youth and Community Development’s Out-of-School Time program, a significant increase from the levels proposed in the executive budget released in May. Instead of losing 6,500 child care spots and 30,000 after-school slots as originally projected, the city will actually have more child care spots in the new fiscal year than it did this past year.
“Working parents need to have their children protected and cared for while they are at work,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in a statement from the mayor’s office. “Children need to receive a high-quality educational experience at an early age. We are creating a program that responds to both of these needs.”
But it is not yet clear how the budget will affect the ACS’ EarlyLearn NYC program, which ACS says will increase quality standards for children enrolled in the city’s subsidized centers, home-based programs and Head Start and expand the capacity of infant and child care programs.
ACS tentatively determined which programs would be awarded seats through EarlyLearn, most of them located in “targeted ZIP codes”—low-income areas—while those located in non-targeted ZIP codes—wealthier areas such as the Upper West Side—could lose seats. Bloomingdale’s Head Start program, located at 171 W. 107th St. is one program at risk, set to shut down in the fall.
Julissa Borday, whose 4-year-old daughter, Skylar, attends the program, said that EarlyLearn’s ZIP code-based funding distribution is unfair.
“You can’t generalize,” Borday said. “That’s a logical fallacy right there. You can’t assume that everyone who lives here is high-income. That’s not the case.”
José Velilla, Bloomingdale’s executive director, agreed, noting that he doesn’t know if this week’s budget agreement will help at all.
“There are still major funding issues with EarlyLearn in and of itself,” he said. “It’s a good thing for those parents who were concerned about losing those slots in after-school, but how the restoration dollars affects EarlyLearn is still unclear.”
Tia Waddy, ACS director of communications, said that the matter is still under consideration.
“The Administration for Children’s Services is grateful for the funding added to early care and education by Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City Council,” Waddy said. “Once the budget has been finalized and voted on by the Council, we will review how the additional resources will be distributed among centers eligible to receive EarlyLearn NYC funding. The City Council will also be allocating money to centers of their choosing via their own discretionary funds.”
Adriana Carrera hopes to enroll her 2-year-old son, Ismail Abuzaid, in the Bloomingdale Head Start program in the fall. If the center closes, however, she won’t be able to afford another day care for her son and will have to care for him at home during the day. The news of potential closure startled her.
“I was thinking, what are we going to do now?” Carrera said. “To look for a place for him is so expensive.”
“They’re being hypocritical,” added Paola Padilla, whose 4-year-old son, Jaden, is in the program. “They’re saying that they’re helping when they’re actually cutting seats.”
EarlyLearn will also not fund half-day slots at city-subsidized child care centers—only full-day slots will be available. But Stephan Russo, the executive director of child care programs at the Goddard Riverside Community Center, said he is not too concerned about tit.
“It services less families, but those Head Start children will have a full-day experience,” Russo said.
Other programs on the Upper West Side that could face cuts are the West Side Montessori School, the Mabel Barrett Fitzgerald Center located in the Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center and the Polly Dodge Day Care Center.
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