May 14, 2012 By Christian Murray
More than 300 parents and children held a protest at P.S. 150 on Wednesday to denounce Mayor Bloomberg’s budget cuts that would slash funds for its after-school program.
The after-school program at P.S. 150, located at 40-01 43 Ave., is one of 233 across New York City in jeopardy unless the New York City Council is able to restore its funds. The funds provide parents with free after-school services for their children.
While the council has been able to restore P.S. 150’s after-school funding before, this year the task is expected to be much tougher.
Two years ago when P.S. 150’s after-school budget faced the chopping block there were 33 programs that were in jeopardy. All were saved through city council restorations. Last year, there were 33 programs that were going to be defunded, with about half of them saved.
At P.S. 150 on Wednesday, children held signs that read: “Save P.S.150 after-school.” At stake is $259,000 in funds.
Jimmy Van Bramer, who many credited with saving PS150’s program in the past two years, pledged that he would fight to protect it yet again. “The mayor has imposed a very severe budget cut,” Van Bramer said. “It is wrong and foolish to cut after-school programs for kids … it is wrong and bad for neighborhoods.”
This year Van Bramer’s task is far tougher. When he was able to save PS 150’s program over the past two years, it was the only program in his district that faced defunding. This year he has 6 out of 8 programs that are in jeopardy.
The loss of the P.S.150 program would have major ramifications for parents in this neighborhood. According to Judy Zangwill, the executive director of Sunnyside Community Services, the program serves 197 students, with an additional 60 on a wait list.
The loss of the funding would have severe implications for many low-income parents, who would struggle to pay for babysitting or other alternatives. According to school records, 66 percent of the school’s attendees are eligible for free lunch, with 26 percent of the students from backgrounds where English is not their first language.
Backup plans are being proposed by the Sunnyside Community Services, which runs the program, if funding is cut. Zangwill said that Sunnyside Community Services is in the process of working out a fee-for-service type program, where parents would be required to pay, say, $250 to $300 per month for an 8.5-month period.
However, the program would be small—perhaps 60 children– and it would probably offer less in the way of services. It would run from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. like the current program.
Zangwill said she hopes that it doesn’t come down to this. “Many people clearly can’t afford it and we don’t want a parent to give up a job because they need to look after their children. It just doesn’t make any sense,” she said.
“In the past two years, I told the parents at P.S. 150 that I would fight for the program and I was able to restore it,” said Van Bramer. “This year I will be fighting just as hard.”