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FY 2013 Budget agreement restores vital child care services; avoid layoffs

Happy to have reached an agreement for an on-time budget that restores both child care and after school services at or above their FY 2012 levels, saving tens of thousands of slots and making services available to nearly 4,000 more children.

Highlights from my remarks:

A budget is a statement of values, a statement of priorities – and with this budget we have made clear that the children of New York City are without question our number one priority.

The importance of providing every child with a quality education is something every New Yorker can agree on.  It’s what we achieved last year, when we all successfully prevented thousands of teachers from being laid off. 

It’s what we stood up for earlier this year, when we negotiated a deal with the DOE to avoid a reduction in teachers through attrition, and keep class sizes from going up. 

And it’s what we’ve done with this budget agreement, working with the DOE and DC37 to prevent the layoff of 400 school aides.

And working with the Mayor, dozens of advocates and thousands of families, I’m incredibly proud that we have found a way to not only preserve child care in the five boroughs, but to make it a more effective part of our education system.

After facing a possible loss of more than 6,500 child care seats and 30,000 Out of School Time seats, we came together and restored funding to beyond last year’s levels – bringing the total number of child care seats to over 50,000 and the total number of OST seats to over 57,000.

And just as important, we’ve made key changes to the Early Learn NYC proposal – which will raise the academic standard of childcare, and age childcare down to include more infants and toddlers. 

We are saying that child care can and must be part of a lifetime of learning - one that continues through pre-K, through Kindergarten, and that finally leads to every child graduating high school ready for college.

That is our ultimate goal, and it begins with academic day care, and it begins with what we have built here today.

Now when the city first issued its Early Learn proposal several months ago, many parents, advocates, and providers rightly raised concerns about some of the changes it made to the chlildcare system.  And I am proud to say that through the leadership of our Finance Chair Domenic M. Recchia, Jr. and our General Welfare Chair Annabel Palma, working with Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs and ACS Commissioner Ron Richter, we have addressed many of those concerns.

For example, there are childcare providers across the city that have been working in our communities for years – providers that know the specific needs of children in their neighborhoods, providers that have the institutional knowledge and experience to make the Early Learn system work for every family.

Instead of pushing them out, we’re going work together to lift them up, give them the resources to provide even higher quality academic instruction, and maintain them as a key part of the system.

And we’ve corrected a potential flaw in the way seats were going to be allocated, that would have left out pockets of low income families who live in economically integrated neighborhoods neighborhoods. 

Thanks to the changes we’ve made, seats will once again go to the families that need them, regardless of where they live.

Today’s budget agreement is a victory for working families at every income level.  As I mentioned, we’ve been able to restore funding for the Out of School Time program, which provides quality educational child care for middle class families and other families in every borough. 

And we were able to preserve funding for 100,000 students to attend after school programs, which benefits thousands of middle class families as well. 

All of these victories build on our longstanding commitment to early childhood education – expanding access to full day pre-Kindergarten and working to make Kindergarten mandatory for all five year olds in the five boroughs.

I again want to thank Mayor Bloomberg, Finance Chair Recchia, and all my colleagues in the City Council for once again coming together to pass a budget that is fiscally responsible while protecting New Yorkers in need, and keeping our city accessible to middle class families.

Our budget isn’t just a plan for how to spend taxpayer dollars.  It’s a statement about who we are as a city.  And this budget says we are a city where every child will be given the opportunity to learn.  A city that refuses to balance its books by hiking taxes.  A city that believes core services cannot be sacrificed even in tough economic times.

This budget was not without difficult choices.  But I believe every one of my colleagues, everyone in the Bloomberg Administration, and every New Yorker can be proud of what it accomplishes, and what it says about our great city.