De Blasio and City Council begin universal after-school push
Stephon Johnson | 1/23/2020, 7:09 p.m.
Kids need a place to be productive once school hours are over. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council hope to remedy that situation.
Intro. 1100 and 1113 of 2018 would mandate universal after-school that would be phased in through an annual plan that includes reporting on implementation and results. It’s one of de Blasio’s many pet projects, along with universal pre-K. Last week, the New York City Council held a hearing on universal after-school, touting the benefits of what it would do to help underserved kids.
New York City Council Member and Youth Services Chair Debi Rose said after-school programs provide nothing but positive benefits for kids.
“After-school programs provide a safe, stress-free environment for children to receive additional academic and social support while their parents contribute to the necessary economic well-being of their families,” said Rose. “These programs have been found to improve student outcomes and provide equity and opportunity by leveling the playing field. This bill makes an investment in the future of our city by ensuring that no child is turned away.”
The bills, authored by Rose, Education Committee Chair Mark Treyger and Council Member Ben Kallos, would help counter the reality of parents working longer hours and spending more time away from the house. A recent study from WalletHub concluded that the average New York City employee works 40.3 hours per week, which is the longest average work week of the 116 cities reviewed by the personal finance site.
“After-school programs provide vital learning, enrichment and personal growth opportunities for students. Expanding after-school programming to all K-12 students who wish to enroll will keep our children safe, encourage academic achievement and inspire participation in extracurricular activities,” stated Treyger, mentioning that the bills would “support students to excel beyond the classroom and deliver kinesthetic learning all year round.”
Elected officials aren’t alone in this sentiment. They are getting some help in their push from elsewhere. Advocates want Albany to help a little bit as well.
Families and after-school advocates from around the state (including the Northwest Buffalo Community Center in Buffalo, the Young Leaders Enrichment Program in the Bronx and the Cypress Hills Local Development Corp. in Brooklyn) took to Albany on Wednesday to rally for increased funding for after-school programs. Advocates desire a per student rate that aligns with program costs to ensure students would be supervised and safe in after-school programs.
According to the Afterschool Alliance, there are 584,597 children in K-12 that are left alone and unsupervised. More than 1 million students are awaiting an available program and only 632,076 are enrolled in after-school. According to Council for a Strong America, young people are more vulnerable to illicit behavior and criminal involvement between the hours of 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
The New York State Network for Youth Success urged New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature to increase rates for after-school programs in underserved communities. According to the organization, the increase is necessary to bring the per student rate into alignment with actual program costs and maintain the number of students in safe, supervised afterschool programs.
“New York has seen tremendous reductions in juvenile crime,” stated Kelly Sturgis, executive director of the New York State Network for Youth Success. “We must maintain after-school programs to ensure that students have a safe, supervised place to go when school is over but many parents are not yet home from work.”
The Bronx-based Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation already has a couple of after-school programs it runs in the same vein that the city wants for everyone else. This includes the Afterschool Enrichment Program at PS/MS 2018, which serves more than 450 K-8 students, focusing on English language arts, STEM project-based learning activities and arts enrichment programs. It also includes the Highbridge Green School MS ExTRA Extended School Day Initiative that provides academic and arts enrichment activities similar to WHEDco’s afterschool program at PS/MS 218.
Davon Russell, president of WHEDco, praised the Council’s push for more after-school programs.
“We see the transformational power of quality after-school programs in the lives of the hundreds of South Bronx students we serve every day, after the final bell, in our school-based programs,” stated Russell. “The incredible initiatives that take place during these post-school hours give students the opportunity to tap into their creativity, discover new interests, create meaningful connections with their peers and mentors, and explore their full potential through opportunities that they would otherwise not have been able to access.”