Advocates endorse plan for universal after-school programs

BOROUGHWIDE — New York City has universal pre-kindergarten classes. Next up: universal after-school.

A proposal by a trio of city councilmembers, including Brooklyn’s Mark Treyger, to have universal after-school programs in all schools has won praise from organizations that work with young people.

“After-school programs provide our students an outlet to experience non-traditional and non-academic learning opportunities. After a long day of academics, students have the opportunity to learn something a different skill and craft such as our Guitar Ensemble that schools may not be able to provide during the day school hours,” said Jahzeel Montes, executive director of Internal Creations, Inc., an organization that teaches kids how to play classical guitar.

Treyger and two of his colleagues, Councilmembers Debi Rose and Ben Kallos, have introduced two bills to bring universal after-school, similar to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s universal pre-k program, to New York City schools.

Under their plan, an after-school program would be available to any student who wants one.

One bill would establish universal after-school. A second bill would require the Department of Education to issue periodic reports to the Council on the success or failure of the program.

The lawmakers estimate that it would cost $100 million to introduce a universal after-school program to New York City.

The two bills were the subject of a joint hearing of the Council’s Education and Youth Services Committees on Jan. 14.

Nancy Miller, executive director and CEO of VISIONS/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, called after-school programs critically important, particularly for students who are blind or disabled. “They are instrumental in enabling blind students to develop the skills needed to work as a team, communicate effectively, solve problems and use assistive technology,” she said.

As Treyger, Rose and Kallos envision it, universal after-school would provide academic enrichment, arts, physical activities and nutrition.

Treyger, a Democrat representing Coney Island, Gravesend and parts of Bensonhurst, is chairperson of the Education Committee. Rose, a Democrat who represents parts of Staten Island, chairs the Youth Services Committee. Kallos is a Democrat whose district includes the Upper East Side.

“Expanding after-school programming to all K-12 students who wish to enroll will keep our children safe, encourage academic achievement and inspire participation in extracurricular activities,” Treyger said,

The pair of bills “will support students to excel beyond the classroom and deliver kinesthetic learning all year round,” he said.

“These programs have been found to improve student outcomes and provide equity and opportunity by leveling the playing field. This bill makes an investment in the future of our city by ensuring that no child is turned away,” Rose said.

There are after-school programs in many schools, but the programs often have a long waiting list, according to councilmembers.

“Universal access to after-school will increase and equalize educational opportunities, keep kids out of the criminal justice system, and make life easier for parents whose jobs keep them at work until at least 5 p.m., if not longer,” Kallos said.

The mayor announced a universal after-school program for the city’s middle school students in 2015. A City Council report issued in 2019 found that there were only 47,000 after-school slots available for 500,000 elementary school students from kindergarten to fifth grade.

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