Parents, Day Care Centers Prepare To Fight City Hall
As the budget battle in the city heats up, day care providers, parents and local elected officials are gearing up for a battle to save day care centers and the number of seats they offer from the budget ax.
On Monday, directors from local day care centers, union representatives and Councilman James Sanders Jr. and his chief of staff, Donovan Richards, assembled at Sheldon R. Weaver Day Care Center in Redfern and spoke to approximately 90 parents about the urgency of the situation.
Locally, Hammels-Arverne Day Care Center on Beach 87 Street and Sheldon R. Weaver, are among 15 day care centers that got the ax in 2010. At that time, both of the Rockaway centers got a one year reprieve.
While this year’s budget doesn’t call for additional center closings, it does eliminate approximately 16,500 publicly funded childcare seats throughout the city, an undisclosed number in Rockaway.
“Each day care [center] would lose one to two classrooms,” said Elaine Short, the director of Lucille Rose Day Care Center.
A third Rockaway day care, Bethel Mission Loving Day Care Center, could be an unintended victim of last year’s budget cuts. Bethel Mission shares a building with Hammels-Arverne Day Care Center. According to Bethel Mission’s director, Dolores Paual, the Administration of Children’s Services (ACS) and the New York City Housing Authority are working to move them to another building.
“They’re working to move us to 338 Beach 56 Street,” said Paual. “We could be saved.”
Councilman James Sanders Jr. called the crisis unnecessary and said the mayor has the wrong priorities, arguing, “We’re going the wrong way.”
“There’s a $3 billion surplus,” said Sanders. “Maybe this mayor wants to go out as the one who paid all the bills. But, he shouldn’t do it by throwing our kids underneath the bus. If the budget is in such bad shape, why aren’t the rich paying extra taxes.”
Richards recalled last year’s fight to keep the centers open and asked, “Where does a household go when their kids [have to] go somewhere and they have to work?”
“Every year the mayor and the government have used day care as political posturing,” said Richards. “We fought very hard [last year] to ensure these day cares were not closed.”
He added, “This year is the most serious year. [The governor’s] trying to close a $10 billion budget on our backs.”
Through petitions, rallies and telephone calls it is the people, Richards said, who have to, “send a signal to the mayor and the ACS commissioner that we are serious about keeping our day care centers open.”
Andrea Anthony, the executive director of the Day Care Council that represents all the centers subsidized by the city, said that the city’s loss of money from the state over the weekend, “only gives Mayor Bloomberg an excuse, more excuses not to help child care or any other services that need help …. Everything is being cut.”
Anthony told parents who received letters telling them they were losing their child’s seat that they are entitled to a fair hearing.
“The problem with filing for a fair hearing is the city has said to us, to me and other advocates in meetings, [that] the chances are very slim of you getting the slot back,” said Anthony. “I think it’s because they are going to hold it up. But you are eligible for a fair hearing. That’s number one. When you file for a fair hearing you have to stay on top of it. The more parents that file in protest, the better it is for all of us.”
Those who spoke argued that early childhood education eliminates the achievement gap.
“You, the parent, have the power …by mobilizing, grouping, calling the mayor’s office, writing those letters, signing those petitions. It’s the only way you are going to stop this,” said Arlene Cauley, the director of Sheldon R. Weaver Day Care.
She added, “It’s our community that is under attack. It’s our children who [are] not going to get a good, quality early childhood education …. Together we can turn this around if you just support what we are doing and support our efforts. It’s about your children.”
In addition to petitions that were handed out, and suggestions to call both the mayor and Speaker Christine Quinn at 311, a citywide rally is scheduled for April 6 at 3 p.m. on the steps of City Hall. For more information contact Lisa Caswell of the Day Care Council of New York at 212-206-7818, extension 107.