Mayor's comment provides fodder for critics of child care cuts

Critics of Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to slash after-school services to tens of thousands of students are forecasting that the cuts will have a grave effect.

Today, they earned an accidental endorsement from an unusual source: Bloomberg.

“We have a lot of kids who unfortunately don’t have parents at home when they leave in the morning or get home in the afternoon and it’s harder to supervise kids,” Bloomberg said during a radio appearance this morning to promote the city’s anti-truancy campaign.

The comments were convenient fodder for Public Advocate Bill De Blasio, who released a report today that painted a doomsday scenario about how the cuts would contribute to crime and hurt citywide employment rates.

De Blasio called Bloomberg “disconnected” and said the issues he raised on the radio were precisely a reason to preserve the after-school programs.“One of the reasons these kids have to be home alone is that we continue to … take resources away,” De Blasio said. “Is it any surprise that children have to be home alone if we’ve taken away from parents the options that they can afford to give their kids a safe environment while they’re at work?”

Bloomberg’s budget would eliminate 32,000 after-school spots, including 27,000 in the city’s largest program, known as Out-of-School Time.

“We know the most likely time for kids to be involved negative activities are right after school between 3pm and 6pm,” De Blasio said. “That’s exactly when after school programs are available to young people.”

The after-school cuts would save the city more than $80 million, according to De Blasio’s report.

The report, titled “Cut Now, Pay Later,” also outlines how cuts to shut down child care center would have long-term effects on taxpayers.

Bloomberg’s cuts would also eliminate a total of 6,500 seats from the city’s EarlyLearn program will be eliminated, saving the city $65 million. De Blasio’s report points to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study that found that every dollar invested in such programs saves $13 to taxpayers down the road.

“We have to make an investment in our future,” De Blasio said at a press conference at City Hall today. “If we don’t we will pay the price in many, many ways.”

It’s the fourth straight year that Bloomberg has cut child care and after-school programs, amounting to a 60 percent reduction in the number of after-school and child care seats since 2009. But this year’s cuts are the steepest yet and with no teaching jobs at stake, it is emerging as the main fight between City Council members and Bloomberg.

The two sides have until June 30 to finalize the budget.