UNH Statement on the NYC FY 2015 Budget Agreement
On Thursday night, Mayor de Blasio and the New York City Council reached an agreement for the FY 2015 budget beginning July 1st. The budget agreement represents the achievement of several long-term goals of United Neighborhood Houses and shows directions we will move in order to better serve New York City’s neighborhoods.
Early Childhood Education and After-School
UNH member agencies are among the highest quality providers of early childhood education and after-school in New York City and have for the last several years been working through Campaign for Children to ensure that every child in New York City has access to high quality early childhood education and after-school programs. The FY 2015 budget represents a historic expansion of these services.
In FY 2015, New York City will implement Mayor de Blasio’s visionary plan to offer an after-school slot to every middle school student who wants one. This will entail a 76% increase in the number of middle school after-school slots to 79,600. Recently, New York City has selected 271 middle schools that will have new after-school programs, including 43 programs that will be operated by UNH member agencies.
Over the next two years, New York City will expand its Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) program for 4-year-olds so that Universal Pre-Kindergarten programs can live up to its name and be truly universal. UNH members will also play a huge role in this expansion offering both UPK programs and a broad range of comprehensive early childhood services.
However, this budget misses the crucial opportunity to stabilize New York City’s early childhood system by investing in equitable salaries for early childhood educators. With the implementation of UPK for 4-year-olds, teachers of 4-year-olds will receive higher salaries than similarly qualified teachers teaching children 0-3. This may lead to teachers opting out of serving younger children and destabilize the early childhood system. UNH urges the City to fund community-based organizations to provide equitable salaries to all early childhood educators before the implementation of UPK in September.
Summer Jobs for Teenagers
For the past 15 years, UNH has co-led the Campaign for Summer Jobs with Neighborhood Family Services Coalition. Campaign for Summer Jobs has fought successfully at both the City and State levels to maintain subsidized summer jobs for New York’s teenagers through the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). However, due to lack of funding, most teenagers who apply for a summer job do not get one. Young people must literally win a lottery to get this crucial work experience. In most years, nearly 100,000 young people apply for and are turned away from a summer job.
Campaign for Summer Jobs has begun a multi-year campaign to reduce youth unemployment through investment in SYEP. Campaign for Summer Jobs is calling for 100,000 summer jobs in five years.
Campaign for Summer Jobs is off to a strong start in its new campaign with the FY 2015 budget. Thanks to a new investment of $15.2 million from the City Council, this summer, the number of summer jobs will increase by 10,700, dramatically expanding the number of young people who participate.
UNH and many of its member agencies are engaged in the Lunch 4 Learning a campaign to offer free, universal school lunch in New York City public schools. Lunch 4 Learning recognizes that when children and youth have a nutritious meal they are better equipped to concentrate and succeed in school. The campaign also recognizes that there is often a regrettable social stigma attached to receiving a free school lunch because of its association with poverty. In other cities across the country, and in New York State, the adoption of free, universal school lunch has increased participation in the school lunch program significantly. By offering free, universal school lunch, New York City can ensure that every student, regardless of family income, can have a nutritious lunch without stigma.
The FY 2015 budget starts off Lunch 4 Learning by offering free, universal school lunch in middle schools. We believe that the implementation of this program will not only benefit 170,000 middle school students and their families, but will be an effective demonstration of the value of free, universal school lunch so that New York City can move toward expanding it to all students.
Services for Older Adults
A majority of UNH’s members offer programs for older adults, spanning a range of services and activities that enable them to age in place and continue to thrive in their communities. Starting with the baselining of many of these services at last year’s levels, and extending to the additional investments in meals and case management that were added in the Executive Budget, we are encouraged by the recognition of the growing older adult population, and the acknowledgement of the need for new investment in this area following a decade of cuts. We will continue to work toward securing the funds community-based organizations need to provide the whole spectrum of services to older adults.
UNH has been a longtime leader in the New York City Coalition for Adult Literacy (NYCCAL) as both a member of the steering committee and advocacy committee. NYCCAL has played a key role in shaping New York State’s response to the new high school equivalency (HSE) examination, and, in the City, has led the charge to secure additional resources to meet the challenges associated with the introduction of the Common Core.
In an attempt to reverse the trend of declining investment in community-based literacy services over the past decade, NYCCAL recruited new Council allies and fought to expand the City Council’s adult literacy initiative. The initiative funds critical Adult Basic Education (ABE), English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), and High School Equivalency (HSE) preparation classes. As a result of these efforts, the initiative was expanded for the first time since its inception, and hundreds of additional immigrants and adult learners will be able to improve their English literacy and/or study to earn their HSE diploma