I question the commitment of our politicians when it comes to the education of our young people.
Educating young minds takes more than classroom instruction and standardized exams. It requires a commitment to nurture students and expose them to a myriad of educational and cultural opportunities. How can this happen if one of the first things on the chopping block during budget discussions is funding for after-school programs and the arts.
I.S. 318 in Brooklyn, New York received national attention thanks to the award winning film Brooklyn Castle. Their chess team has won more national championships than any other in the country. They were the first middle school team to win the United States Chess Federation's national high school championship.
According to an article in the New York Daily News, the team from I.S. 318 currently receives $20,000 from the New York City, money that could go away if the proposed budget, which calls for $130 million to be cut from childcare and after-school programs is passed by the city council. Is this how we invest in our children's future?
In April 2012, after winning the National High School Chess Championship, the middle school students attended a ceremony inside City Hall. Mayor Bloomberg was quoted saying “I was really impressed with you guys,....You’re a lot smarter than I am.” I guess cutting the budget for after-school programs is how he shows his appreciation.
I.S. 318 is not the only school potentially facing a reduction or complete loss of funding. The Citizens Committee for Children (www.cccnewyork.org) published a document highlighting the impact of NYC's 2014 budget. In the summary they noted:
The New York City Executive Budget for Fiscal Year 2014 proposes to cut over $210 million dollars in City funds from services to children and families, which includes the elimination of over 47,000 child care and after-school slots. Additional cuts include reductions in mental health services for young children, runaway and homeless youth services, child health clinics, raising the price of school meals, among other reductions.
While we're on the subject of cuts, NYC's public libraries are bracing for a $106 million reduction in their fiscal 2014 budget. How's that for investing in the future of our youth?
I would be surprised if New York City is the only place this is happening.
Our politicians have no problem talking about education and the need to invest in the future of our youth during rallies and press conferences but what are they actually doing? We need to hold our state and local officials accountable for the decisions they make.
We have the power of the vote, we need to use it.
It starts now, let's get this thing done....
Ernest R. Heyward is the Founder and President of the Marketplace for Social Awareness and Social Responsibility Inc.