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Comrie slams cuts to Hollis Head Start

Children from the Committee for Early Childhood Development Head Start in Hollis joined their teachers and parents in protesting Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed early childhood education cuts. Photo by Rebecca Henely
TimesLedger Newspapers

City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) joined more than 100 young children and their teachers from the Committee for Early Childhood Development Head Start in Hollis Friday to protest the mayor’s proposal to cut the organization’s funding amid negotiations over the city’s fiscal year 2013 budget.

“It is ridiculous what the city is doing to destroy this early learn program,” Comrie said.

The committee is an early education program for children ages 3 to 5, which has three locations in southeast Queens and has been operating for 46 years. Comrie said even though the committee was re-accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and received an Outstanding Early Childhood Program Award from the state in 2005, the program is slated to lose its city funding.

Young students in the program and their parents held a protest at the committee’s Hollis location, at 193-04 Jamaica Ave.

Early childhood and after-school programs were cut across the borough and city in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s executive budget due to a $2 billion projected deficit. The mayor’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Comrie said his district will also lose about 700 slots for pre-kindergarten because the city Administration for Children’s Services has changed its formula for funding early childcare programs. ACS’s new program, Early Learn NYC, standardizes the city’s early education and childcare system and assesses where the need is greatest based on a variety of factors.

“Early Learn NYC is the most significant innovation in New York City’s early care and education system in 50 years,” ACS Commissioner Ronald Richter said in a statement last month. “We will be providing the working families of this city higher quality services in our neighborhoods of greatest need.”

Comrie said the system relies too much on the housing within the ZIP code. He said this puts his district — which includes St. Albans, Hollis, Cambria Heights, Baisley Park, Addisleigh Park and parts of Jamaica, Queens Village, Rosedale and Springfield Gardens — at a disadvantage as many homes that had prices inflated before the housing market crash of 2008 are now populated by multiple families.

“We’re house rich and cash poor,” Comrie said of the community.

Shaneeze Edoo, who has children who have gone through the committee, said the program gives the children in a low-income area a place to learn and go on field trips that their parents could not otherwise afford.

“We all need this program,” Edoo said, “in this area especially.”

John Howard, an educator in this community, said the committee offers an equalized approach to education.

“You can tell the difference between youngsters who are in Head Start programs and youngsters who have not had Head Start programs,” Howard said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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