Mayor Bill de Blasio promised that the restoration of two groups of afterschool vouchers that primarily benefited the Orthodox community would happen the latest by the 2015 school year.
Speaking with Leon Goldenberg on the latter’s “Community Matters” show Motzoei Shabbos, the mayor noted that as a city councilman during the 2000s, he had led the battle to keep Priorities 5 and 7 vouchers. Priority 5 vouchers have been significantly reduced, and Priority 7 was eventually eliminated by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“I did work on for many years saving Priority 5 and 7 vouchers,” de Blasio told Goldenberg. “I’ve said to you and many people that the reason I fought Mayor Bloomberg on that was because I understood that for so many large families in the Jewish communities and in other communities the Priorities 5 and 7 vouchers were a lifeline. These are families that do have a lot of kids and need help.”
Afterschool vouchers, worth several hundred dollars a week, are given to large families for extracurricular activities on a sliding scale. Families under social service supervision are given higher priority, but many Orthodox families have qualified for some of the other priorities.
For example, Priority 5 benefits families where both parents work at least 20 hours a week but still struggle, and Priority 7, for those with significant needs, such as large families.
De Blasio said that he considers restoring the afterschool vouchers essential to his broader message of early childhood education, the most famous component of which is universal pre-kindergarten.
“I see the Priorities 5 and 7 vouchers entirely connected to what I am trying to do in general with early childhood education,” he said. “Whether its pre-K, Head Start, childcare — all of these pieces help to prepare and to help our children. So my plan is to find the first opportunity, and I don’t know if that will be in this budget or in the year after budget, but to find the first opportunity to restore the Priorities 5 and 7 vouchers.”
“I think it was tremendously unfair that they were taken from the community; I think it is something we need to restore, and I am going to do so the first chance I get.”