NYC’s Budget Pours Funding Into Policing Instead of Family and Community Needs

In early June, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams finalized a city budget totaling $101 billion for fiscal year 2023. The budget determines funding for essential services and systems in New York City and reflects the Mayor’s and City Council’s priorities. 

Rise celebrates budget highlights, such as the Speaker’s Initiative to Address Citywide Needs, an initiative that will help Council Members invest in community projects such as adult literacy programs or community centers. The budget also includes about $5 billion more for affordable and public housing, bringing the city’s total investment over a ten-year period to about $22 billion. It is exciting to see these funds dedicated to the wants and needs of families and communities. However, overall, we see a disconnect between elected officials’ promises to support communities and families and where money is being invested—the city is continuing to pour funding into policing systems and is not sufficiently funding child care and education. Rise will continue to advocate for solutions that address structural inequities and root causes of family policing system (FPS) involvement—including access to child care, mental health care and peer support

Insufficient Funds for Child Care

Rise’s main organizing priority for 2022 is to ensure the city invests in accessible and affordable child care, which is a family policing issue. Lack of child care is linked to maternal neglect reports, which subject families to traumatic family policing system investigations. Child care is a service that should be a basic right—and families should not have to be involved with family policing systems to access child care. 

Rise joined with other community groups, including Make the Road NY and AQE, in rallying to support the inclusion of all families, regardless of immigration status, in access to child care. We support the city budget’s allocation of funds approximating $10 million towards child care for undocumented families, which was achieved largely thanks to the advocacy of Council Members Hanif and Cabán. This funding was especially crucial due to the NY State budget’s exclusion of children who are undocumented.

The adopted city budget indicates plans to create more child care spaces by offering tax exemptions for property owners who create additional physical space for child care. The budget also provides tax credits for businesses that offer free or subsidized child care. However, despite the Mayor’s pledge to expand access to child care, this approach centers businesses, not families. 

The Mayor’s commitment to expanding child care must go beyond expanding availability through tax credits and address the real underlying issues families face, which include difficult application processes, child care “deserts” and waitlists, understaffed centers and underpaid staff, limited hours that do not reflect families’ needs, varying quality of early education services, the high cost of child care and family policing system oversight of child care vouchers. 

Rise continuously hears from parents about the need for easy access to child care vouchers without involvement with ACS. A respondent to our child care survey stated, “ACS should not be in control of child care vouchers. It is as if they are still policing families. As long as they control the vouchers, they hold you and your children hostage [through] illegal and unethical tactics that they use and continue to get away with.” Rise will continue to advocate to end ACS oversight of child care vouchers, processes and services. 

Like health insurance, the city’s approach makes a service that should be a fundamental human right conditional on a certain type of employment. While it will create some new child care slots, this does not come close to addressing the need for universal child care for all families without access being dependent on employment, income or immigration status. Why is the city looking to businesses and corporations to offer what should be a basic right for all families? 

As a parent who completed our child care survey commented, “It shouldn’t be connected to employment; that’s punitive policy that deepens the impact of socio-economic oppression.” Furthermore, these tax credits are a benefit that can only be easily accessed by businesses that already have the existing resources (including space and funds) to offer child care. Small businesses and organizations do not typically have the resources to provide free/subsidized child care. The city needs to stop pouring funds into the family policing system and begin investing in child care, education and other family and community needs. 

Cuts to Education

The budget cuts to education total $215 million, despite an already under-resourced and overcrowded public school system. (Although the City Council allocated an additional $700 million to the Department of Education (DOE), because of outdated funding formulas and under-projected enrollment data, schools are receiving less.) 

The Mayor attributes the move to declining enrollment; however, schools actually need more resources to effectively meet students’ needs and provide critical socio-emotional support. 

We have called for investments that can support children and families, such as access to quality and timely special education evaluations, school counselors, social workers, nurses and psychologists (including bilingual psychologists) and expansion of restorative, healing-centered and community-led approaches that are shown to be effective.

Schools already lack the funding to be able to offer the after-school programs that families need, and a shrinking budget puts existing programs at risk of being cut. In Rise’s recent survey around child care in NYC, we saw that more than half of our respondents required child care for ages five and above—and after-school programs are an essential form of child care for many parents. 

Increased Funds for Policing

This year’s budget allocates $152 million more to NYPD than last year, despite an already bloated NYPD budget and calls from the Black Lives Matter movement to divest from policing systems throughout the country and invest in communities. We acknowledge the Council’s and Comptroller Brad Lander’s important efforts that prevented new investment in the Department of Correction. However, it is problematic that instead of actively divesting from systems of policing and incarceration, the city has expanded the NYPD’s budget. It has done so at the cost of adequately funding essential public services that could actually support family and community safety and well-being, such as child care and education.

Rise has joined other organizations in advocating to defund the NYPD budget and all systems of policing. Groups such as Urban Youth Collaborative, an NYC student-led coalition fighting to end the school-to-prison pipeline, have advocated for removing school police officers, known as “school safety agents,” from NYC schools. While the city cut school budgets, we are still funding school police—continuing to criminalize, instead of support, Black and brown youth. School police push children into the school-to-prison pipeline. Additionally, schools are responsible for many “hotline” reports—involving parents in a punishing system, often when families are facing challenges and need resources or support.

Organizing for a Shift in Investments and Priorities

All systems of policing are interconnected in philosophy and practice and are rooted in surveillance and punishment. In many instances, when parents have an ACS case, the police get involved. When parents get arrested (for any reason), children often go into the foster system. These systems funnel into each other and keep each other functioning—and they separate and harm families and communities. 

The funds needed to make meaningful change already exist—but they are poured into systems of policing instead of being invested in family and community well-being. Shifting our investments to prioritize mental health support, child care, peer support and other strategies outlined in our parent-led participatory action report will strengthen family safety and well-being and decrease involvement with all policing systems. 

Rise will continue to focus on and advocate for these shifts. We are hosting a Virtual Town Hall on Child Care tomorrow and in the coming weeks will share the results of our parent/caregiver survey on child care and additional calls to action. We invite you to join us and let us know how we can support your interconnected movement work.

Art by Eileen Jimenez.

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