Four before-and-after-school childcare programs run by the Department of Housing and Community Development – originally set to be shuttered by the city on June 30 – are going to remain open, according to Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke.
With one of them in her district, the Waverly School-Age Child Care Center, Clarke has been leading the charge to save these centers, working closely with Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D-43).
Clarke said she had scheduled a hearing on Thursday at 3 p.m. to question city budget and housing officials on the planned closure.
“I’m thinking of having the hearing anyway,” Clarke said in a phone interview with The Brew today shortly after she got the news. “I don’t want to have to go through this next year.”
“This is the third time we’ve had to save these programs since 2004,” Clarke said.
Every time, Clarke said, she’s had to turn to Conway, who has intervened to get the funding restored. City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young this year, who sponsored a resolution in support of the program, also helped out preserve the funds, she said.
Clarke said she’s looking for assurances that the city will not try to cut it again. The idea was to transfer money set aside for the childcare centers to the Head Start program.
“We love Head Start, but that’s apples and oranges – they’re different,” Clarke said.
Besides Waverly, located at 80 East 34th Street, there is Northwood School-Age Child Care Center on Winford Road, Dukeland Child Care Academy on Dukeland Street and Dunbar Child Care Academy on North Eden Street.
Helping Working Parents Keep Kids Safe
Clarke said the program gives children a supervised place to go before and after school (the centers are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and all summer long) and noted that they charge parents on a sliding scale according to income.
To be eligible for the child care, the parents must be working, in school or in a job training program.
With all the recent concern about city violence and making sure children are safe and out of mischief, Clarke said, the program makes sense, especially because it also helps people stay employed or finish their degrees.
“Why are you closing [the centers] when you want people to work? I’ve got a crossing guard – that’s a wonderful job but it doesn’t pay much, but that person can get sliding fee scale and her children are safe,” Clarke said, speaking recently about the issue on WEAA-FM’s Marc Steiner Show. “So you want people to work, you want children to be safe, that does it.”
She said there are 40 children in the Waverly program and a similar number attending the Northwood center. After tuition is paid and other subsidies are applied, the two programs together cost the city about $170,000, she said. The other two programs are similar in size and cost, she said.
Proposed “Children’s Budget” Cuts
Clarke said at last night’s City Council meeting that she remains concerned about other cuts to youth-related programs in the current FY 2014 and proposed FY 2015 budget
She and other councilmembers have sponsored a resolution calling for a March 6 informational hearing (at 3 p.m. in City Hall) on the so-called “Youth Budget.” The budget document groups youth-related spending in one place – items such as recreation centers, libraries and truancy programs – and comes up with total spending. (In 2014, it was $372,709,261.)
Although the overall 2014 youth budget represents a 3.4% increase from the previous year, Clarke said, she and other councilmembers were concerned about individual cuts. She singled out the crossing guard program, noting that from 2013 to 2014, it is budgeted to drop from $2,843,603 to $2,724,179.
Clarke thanked citizen activist Kim Trueheart (“whose birthday it is today!”) for “bringing this to my attention.”
“Crossing guards are a sensitive issue in my district,” Clarke said. “With all these speed cameras not working and with scaled-down traffic enforcement, it’s a particular concern.”