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New York Rally Targets Cuts to Child Care Funding

AFT president Randi Weingarten told a rally of more than 1,000 child care workers and parents in New York City May 11 that Mayor Michael Bloomberg's budget plan will hurt children and working families.

"New York is a place that has always had a safety net for its children," Weingarten said. "I'm really disappointed with the mayor. He's come up with a destabilizing budget for working folks at a time when they need stability."

A coalition of labor, religious, human rights and community groups staged the two-hour rally near City Hall to draw attention to cuts in child care funding and teacher layoffs Bloomberg has proposed. The coalition contends the cuts and layoffs are unnecessary because the city is sitting on a $3.2 billion surplus.

The crowd at the rally included members of the United Federation of Teacher's Family Child Care Providers Chapter, led by chapter chair Tammie Miller, as well as members from District Council 1707.

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The mayor's executive budget released last week calls for cuts of $51 million from city child care and for 4,100 teacher layoffs. He had originally planned to slash the program by $91 million, which would have eliminated 16,500 child care subsidies for working families, but was forced to restore $40 million of that amount under pressure from unions and other advocacy groups.

"We have had it," UFT president and AFT vice president Michael Mulgrew (pictured at right) told the crowd. "We now have a city where half of the households are below the poverty line. It was not this way 10 years ago."

Although Bloomberg says no child will lose his or her subsidy under the new plan, it is unclear how services can be maintained with that large a funding cut.

"How are you saving child care slots when you're cutting more than half the money in the programs that provide those services?" asked Lee A. Saunders, secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Class sizes in the city's schools have swelled over the last two years because thousands of teachers who retired or otherwise left the system have not been replaced. More layoffs will make class sizes even larger.

"If we have these budget cuts, thousands of kids will get hurt. Should kids be treated like this when there's a $3.2 billion budget surplus?" Weingarten asked the crowd.

The Rev. Clifton Miller of the National Action Network noted that the city finds money when it wants to. He drew applause when he noted that the city found $4 million to rename the Queensboro Bridge after former Mayor Ed Koch.

"We have known and we have discovered in the past that in the midst of a budget crisis the city can find money for what it wants to find money for," Miller said. [Scott Stephens, UFT/photo by Miller Photography]

May 12, 2011