Brooklyn – Yesterday was the busiest day of the year for the New York City Council. It was the day that the Council would vote on the city’s $65 billion budget. Despite that, Council Speaker Christine Quinn took out the time to join her colleagues Council Finance Chairman Domenic M. Recchia, Jr., Assistant Majority Leader Lew Fidler and Council Members David G. Greenfield, Stephen Levin, Brad Lander and Letitia James at a roundtable meeting with over 40 yeshiva administrators and community leaders to celebrate the budget deal brokered by the City Council that restored vouchers to tens of thousands of children across New York City, including thousands of Orthodox Jewish children in Brooklyn.
Just a few minutes before Shabbos on Friday night, the City Council reached a deal with the Bloomberg administration to restore two-thirds of the funding for city-subsidized child care ensuring that the Orthodox Jewish community would continue to have a voucher program in place for the upcoming school year. Under the leadership of Council Speaker Quinn, Council Finance Chair Recchia and General Welfare Chair Annabel Palma, who spearheaded a city-wide coalition focused on saving child care, the Council restored an additional $25 million to the child care budget to guarantee that child care would continue to benefit all communities in New York, including the frum community.
“The $25 million dollars in child care subsidies that have been allocated in the 2012 budget will go a long way in ensuring that parents and families continue to have access to quality, affordable child care in New York City,” Speaker Christine C. Quinn said. “The preservation of these funds is a victory for the advocates who fought to keep this program alive and is a relief for the parents who rely on these programs to help pay for child care. I want to thank Finance Chair Domenic Recchia and General Welfare Chair Annabel Palama for their efforts in leading this fight, and Council Members David Greenfield, Brad Lander, Lew Fidler and Letita James for all their hard work in restoring this funding.”
“This was a textbook example of how to successfully fight City Hall,” explained Councilman Greenfield. “With the combined efforts of my colleagues in the Council, the leaders of our yeshivas, and the extraordinary efforts of thousands of yeshiva parents, who combined made more than 6,000 phone calls to the Mayor’s office, we were able to safeguard child care for over ten thousand children – including thousands of Jewish children – who would have been left without child care under the Mayor’s original proposed budget.”
Details of the budget deal are still being finalized, and the final city budget will be adopted tonight at 8pm, but under the Council-negotiated deal children between the ages of 0 and 4 will be able to remain in contracted care. If those children previously received child care through a voucher, they will be offered a contracted care slot instead. Every child between the ages of 5 and 12 with a child care voucher this year will be able to keep their voucher next year. In order to close the budget gap, that voucher will now be worth 60% of the original value.
“From the beginning, the child care restoration, and the vouchers in particular, were a main budget priority for Brooklyn’s council members in particular,” explained Assistant Majority Leader Fidler. “Working with Speaker Quinn and Finance Chairman Recchia, Council Members Greenfield, Lander, Levin, James and I organized this fight. No one thought we would be able to get vouchers restored, and when the Administration proposed another plan claiming to ‘restore day care’ that did not include vouchers, we were neither fooled nor willing to take no for an answer. In the end, Council teamwork working with many good organizations in our community, got the job done. We are all extremely thankful.”
Thousands of parents, who were told that the voucher program was ending and their only option was a slot in an inferior Out of School Time (OST) program, are also thankful because the Orthodox community does not have enough OST slots to accommodate the thousands of children who would have lost their vouchers. That’s why 15 Council Members fired off a letter to Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs two weeks ago informing her that the Mayor’s original child care proposal would discriminate against Orthodox Jews.
“This agreement, while not perfect, preserves quality, affordable childcare for the religious community throughout Brooklyn,” noted Councilman Levin. “This deal was accomplished through the extraordinary efforts of the parents, teachers, and students who lobbied City Hall to maintain funding for childcare services. I promise to continue to advocate for a full restoration of the vouchers as the city’s budget situation improves. I would like to thank Speaker Christine Quinn, Finance Chair Domenic Recchia, and General Welfare Chair Annabel Palma for their leadership on this issue, as well as Council Members David Greenfield, Brad Lander, Lew Fidler and Letitia James, who led the fight to restore this vital funding.”
“I am relieved that Priority 5, a vital lifeline for thousands of this city’s low-income families, has been restored,” said Council Member James. “This represents a reprieve for more than 16,000 working-class families across the five boroughs, many of them Jewish families. Following the elimination of Priority 7, I stand strong with my colleagues in supporting the many working parents who seek to enroll their children in after-school programs or childcare. It is my goal to continue providing these families with diverse childcare options.”
In addition to preserving vouchers, over two-thirds of the classrooms that were eliminated from contracted care will be restored through a formula that will be determined in the coming days.
“I’m very pleased that our City Council team was able to save child care services for thousands of kids in New York City, including many in the Orthodox Jewish community,” said Councilman Lander. “In addition to the restoration of over 8,000 Priority 5 vouchers that the Bloomberg Administration was set to eliminate, we were able to restore much-needed classrooms at Beth Jacob and Gan Day Care Centers in Borough Park, which I am proud to represent. Thank you to Speaker Christine Quinn, Finance Chairman Domenic Recchia, Councilmembers Palma, Fidler, Greenfield, Levin, James and many others, and to all those families who made their voices heard on this critical issue.”
“I am grateful to Speaker Quinn for recognizing the unique needs of the Orthodox Jewish community and working to ensure that the community receives its fair share of child care,” concluded Councilman Greenfield. “I look forward to continue working with Speaker Quinn, Chairs Recchia and Palma, Assistant Majority Leader Fidler and all of my colleagues in the council to meet the growing need for safe and affordable child care for all of New York’s children.”
(YWN Desk – NYC)