Dedicated After-School Funding Left Out of New York Budget
Earlier this spring, it looked as if after-school programs in New York were in line to receive new and stable funding in the state budget. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo had proposed providing $160 million to pay for after-school programs in the state for 100,000 students. Separately, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had called for lawmakers to approve a tax increase on high-income city residents that would create a fund for expanding after-school and pre-kindergarten programs in the city.
However, the $140 billion 2014-2015 budget passed April 1 by the New York legislature does not include any funds dedicated to after-school initiatives.
De Blasio, a Democrat who took office in January, had proposed to use a portion of the new tax revenue, $190 million, to double the number of public middle-school students in after-school programs. In the state budget, no money is earmarked for after-school expansion in New York City. (The budget does allocate $300 million for pre-Kindergarten expansion.)
That doesn't mean de Blasio's after-school expansion plans are dead, though they may be scaled back somewhat.
City officials say they still plan on adding new after-school programs in the 2014-15 school year. While the state did not allocate dedicated funding for after-school programming, it did increase annual school aid for New York City by $430 million this year, and the city can use as much of this money as it wants to expand after-school initiatives. The city will announce how much of the $430 million it will allocate to after-school expansion when it releases its executive budget in about a month.
After-school advocates say the budget is a letdown. Currently, New York spends about $57 millionabout 35 percent less than it did before the recessionon after-school programming that serves roughly 50,000 to 60,000 students, according to Nora Niedzielski-Eichner, the executive director of the New York State Afterschool Network (NYSAN).
"New York has always invested in after-school, but what the governor had proposed was on a whole different scale," Niedzielski-Eichner told me. "He was talking about creating a real statewide after-school system. We were feeling we were on the cusp of something that would start to address the needs of students and families here, so it's very disappointing that it did not end up in the final budget."
"You need after-school because it is not the same thing as school," Niedzielski-Eichner said. "It does different things. This is about getting mentoring opportunities, hands-on learning activities, or a 1:10 educator ratio."
Her organization's members have already started writing letters to newspapers and legislators to push for new and expanded after-school funding in next year's budget, she said.