New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Upper East Side Patch UES City Council Rep Pushes For Universal After School Program by Brendan Krisel

UES City Council Rep Pushes For Universal After School Program

Councilmember Ben Kallos authored two bills that require the city to meet all after school slot requests for public school students.

An Upper East Side lawmaker authored two bills that would require the city to fill all requested after school slots. (Shutterstock)

UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — An Upper East Side representative in New York's city council is helping lead the push for universal after school programs by authoring bills that would require the city to offer programming for nearly 600,000 students who want after school but are kept on a waiting list.

Under legislation authored by City Councilman Ben Kallos awith Staten Island's Debi Rose and Brooklyn's Mark Treyger, all public school students between the ages of three and 21 would be guaranteed space in a program through a Universal After School initiative. The bill requires city education officials to keep an annual report on the availability and need of after school slots as well as costs of the program.

The lawmakers are also pushing a bill that mandates annual reporting on funding, applications and demographics of after school programs at city schools. Both bills were discussed Tuesday during a public hearing at City Hall.

"Universal access to after school will increase and equalize educational opportunities, keep kids out of the criminal justice system, and make life easier for parents whose jobs keep them at work until at least 5pm, if not longer. As a new parent myself, I rely on an extended day and enrichment activities to keep my daughter busy while my partner and I are working," Kallos said in a statement.

After school programs are critically important because it is becoming increasingly rare for families to have stay-at-home parents, according to data cited by Kallos' office. The number of kids on waiting lists for after school programs in New York City vastly outnumbers the number of kids enrolled in programs. There are 1.15 million students on waiting lists compared to 632,076 enrolled in programs, according to the Afterschool Alliance — a national organization dedicated to expanding after school opportunities.

New York City's after school programs have shown growth since Mayor Bill de Blasio rebranded the system as the Comprehensive After School System (COMPASS). In 2015, the city was spending $135.7 million to create just 57,535 middle school slots. Those numbers jumped to $180.5 million for 77,747 slots by 2019, according to the city's Independent Budget Office.

The city isn't close to meeting after school need when it comes to elementary school. City schools hold about 500,000 elementary school children with just 47,000 COMPASS slots, according to the City Council's 2019 report.

Politicians pushing for universal after school say that students will greatly benefit from having a productive use of their time between school's end and going home. Children are most likely to get involved in illicit or criminal behavior between the hours of 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., according to data cited by the lawmakers.

"After school programs provide vital learning, enrichment and personal growth opportunities for students. Expanding after school programming to all K-12 students who wish to enroll will keep our children safe, encourage academic achievement and inspire participation in extracurricular activities," Treyger said in a statement.

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