Parents fight to preserve after-school programs

Parents made sure that their needs were heard on April 26, as they stood outside P.S 503 in Sunset Park to try to prevent the city from cutting their much-needed child care and after-school programs.

Over 300 parents lined up starting at 3 p.m. on a warm Friday afternoon hoping to all fit in the school’s auditorium which had been decorated with posters colored and painted by the children that read Unite and Fight for After-School, or save CFL (Center for Family Life) Camp.

The proposed $130 million in city budget cuts would affect more than 47,000 children throughout the city, an issue that touches close to home in Sunset Park, driving the Center for Family Life, a program of SCO Family of Services, to host the rally.

“It makes it impossible for parents to be employed, to go outside and work,” said Hector G., an angry grandfather of three, who added that the after-school programs keeps the children busy, instead of having them hang out elsewhere and get into trouble.

“Not only it increases the gangs, but crime will be an issue. Kids are out there at the hands of gangs. This is something that’s needed,” he declared.

His daughter, Janine Lopez, a full-time single mom who works, pleaded with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other politicians to be in her shoes.

“[The cuts] won’t only affect me, but the entire household,” Lopez confessed. “Money wise, paying for a babysitter; I get out at 5 p.m. and it gives me time to prepare everything,” she explained about her daily routine of picking up the kids from the after-school program at 6 p.m. after she gets out of work.

If her kids can’t be at after-school, “I’d have to rearrange my whole lifestyle,” she continued. “For the sake of the children, they enjoy the camp,” Lopez concluded.

Not only was the school auditorium filled with parents; the gym held an extra 200 frustrated parents, waiting for be acknowledged.

Brigida Perez, another irritated mother, concurred with the consistently heated remarks. “My daughter adores the after-school program. She never wants me to pick her up early,” she told this paper, adding that she feels safe that her daughter is at school from 3 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. in an environment where she knows she’s getting the most of it.

“It’s a necessity in our community,” Lidia Placencia agreed.

Congressmember Nydia Velazquez, Assemblymember Felix Ortiz, and Councilmember Sara Gonzalez joined in on the second annual rally.

“It’s important that you’re here today because you are the voice of our children,” Velazquez told the tense, aggravated, and frustrated parents, promising them to fight for them.

“Our children—that’s the future of our city,” she continued as the parents applauded her speech.

As part of the effort to save crucial after-school programs, Brooklyn parents, children and advocates from the Campaign for Children, along with elected officials such as Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Brooklyn councilmembers, gathered at a larger scale rally on Tuesday April 30 at Borough Hall.

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