Plans by the Administration for Children's Services to slash almost one third of city-subsidized child-care seats are being slammed by child-care advocates and politicians citywide, amid concerns that it may leave affected kids at an academic disadvantage and parents without jobs.
Since February, when the mayor issued his preliminary budget, the Administration for Children's Services (ACS) has been busy notifying over 11,000 parents of their plans to scale back a program that has allowed them to work or remain in agency-approved training while the city paid someone else to watch their kids.
As a consequence, over 16,000 children will be cut off by September, mostly from low-income families receiving ACS-contracted daycare or vouchers funding after-school programs.
Parents have until then to find alternative arrangements for their children, ACS spokeswoman Elysia Carnavale-Murphy says.
Under the sweeping plan, an estimated 600 teachers and teacher-aides will also be laid off, as at least 197 classrooms shut down.
Sixteen daycare centers are also facing the chopping block or have been axed in recent months, according to Arlene Cauley, director of the Sheldon Weaver Day Care Center in Far Rockaway, Queens.
Carnavale-Murphy denies that any centers will be forced to shut because of the cuts proposed in February. But, she adds in a statement to City Limits, “there are several programs that are scheduled to close by June of this year as a result of a budget reduction initiative proposed in last year's budget process.”
City cites higher costs
Carnavale-Murphy says that sharp reductions in state and federal aid in recent years, as well as increasing costs at participating centers, were driving the childcare agency to make difficult decisions.
The coming fiscal year will see a $29 million decrease in federal stimulus funds, she says. Increasing insurance costs for unionized teachers and more children entering the system were also factors in the agency's decision.
“The city must take action to address the more than $90 million budget shortfall caused by rising costs as state and federal resources have not kept pace. We are dealing with this by ensuring that our limited resources are used to support the families who need it the most,” she adds.
In the interim, the agency will be helping families affected to find alternative programs, she says, including the federal Head Start or the city's Out-of-School Time.
However, that plan has many childcare advocates and families fuming. Gregory Brender, a policy analyst at United Neighborhood Houses, warns that neither program holds out much promise of an affordable alternative come September.
“Head Start has strict income guidelines.