According to Crowley, more than $16 million in funding may be taken out of the next fiscal year’s budget for the programs. That could spell trouble for programs like the one PS 71.
Nearly 200 students attend the program. Each family pays $125 a month, but without city funding they could end up paying a lot more.
“We’re here today to fight for our fair share,” Crowley said at the rally. “Not only do we want it restored, we want that funding expanded.”
In the program’s two brief years, educators said they’ve already seen progress. They touted an increase in reading proficiency levels among nearly all after-school students.
In addition to reading and homework help, the program also offers science, dance, drama, sports and cooking classes.
“It’s the overall way the kids feel about themselves, which helps them to be a better student,” Crowley said.
Jennifer Lopez, president of the Parent-Teacher Association, said the program provides a safe space for children to learn.
“We have a sense of community,” she said. “They’re learning how to make healthy meals, they’re receiving healthy snacks.”
Bob Monahan, president of the Greater Ridgewood Youth Council, said he was surprised to hear about the $16 million reduction in funding. The funding cut would ultimately impact local parents, he said.
“Our concern is elementary school parents paying for programs,” he said. “We’re trying to reduce the cost for parents.”
Crowley said they have until June 30 to come up with an agreement to extend the funding. Ideally, she said, she wants enough funding for elementary after-school programs so every child can have access to a free program.
That would include an additional $1 million in her district.
“We not only want it restored, but we want to see the funding expanded so parents don’t have to pay,” Crowley said. “These programs are so vital.”