Kevin Gillespie stood in the drizzle outside the Tabernacle Church of God Day care Center with his three young children and contemplated his family’s future.
“Both my wife and I work, and we need daycare,” said Gillespie. “Now one of us will have to stay at home and it will cut back on our money because one of us will be forced to stay home.”Gillespie is one of thousands of working parents citywide who’s facing the same prospect as the Bloomberg Administration readies to cut some 17,000 day care slots – all except those with government-mandated vouchers such as toddlers and pre-kindergarteners in the federal Headstart program.
The impact is particularly great in Brooklyn’s neighborhoods of color. For instance, in the City Council districts of members Al Vann and Darlene Mealy, which represents the bulk of Bedford-Stuyvesant, 534 children will lose their day care slots, which is more than half of the 794 children that have vouchers.
The Bloomberg Administration says they sympathize, but there is little they can do because State and Federal money given to the city to help defray costs of day care have not kept up with the rising costs and in some cases have been cut.
“We must take action now to address the more than $90 million budget shortfall caused by rising costs as State and Federal resources for child care have not kept pace,” said a spokesperson for the city’s Administration for Children Services (ACS).But City Councilman Al Vann called Bloomberg’s proposal to eliminate the child care slots unacceptable.
“It is a complete contradiction for the mayor to speak about prioritizing education while taking away these resources. Our children cannot afford to lose this early education opportunity and working parents cannot afford to lose this service,” he said.
City Councilwoman Letitia James said she understands the city’s dilemma and the answer is to dip into the city’s $3 billion rainy day fund to pay for the slots.
“My position is we in the city have been good stewards of public funds and we have saved some funds for a rainy day and now it appears it’s raining outside,” said James.
“We could have avoided all this if we had extended the (state) millionaires tax,” she added.
But as of now, it doesn’t appear the Bloomberg Administration will use the rainy day fund as the city readies to pass their FY 2011-12 budget by June 30.
Meanwhile, fears of children losing seats and resulting job layoffs in the 19 ACS Group Child Care Programs in Bed-Stuy are growing.
“If slots close, it would affect almost half of the children in our site,” said Alivia Wade, who works at the Marcy Children’s Center, which has been open for more than 20 years.
“Most of our working parents would have nowhere to send their children. We will have to close classrooms. A lot of teachers will be out of a job and pre school children will be left in the cold.”