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Day care cuts protested

Published Feb 18, 2010 10:17 PM

Working mothers and their children, unionized day care workers and community supporters, outraged by slashed day care subsidies, marched and rallied in protest Feb. 9 in downtown Buffalo, mobilized by the religious group VOICE-Buffalo and an outspoken county government representative from the inner city, Betty Jean Grant.

Buffalo protest against cuts in early
childhood education.
WW photo: Ellie Dorritie

Over 100 protesters weathered the cold, windy and snowy day to march to the County Office Building, where they stood below the offices of the Social Services Department and the County Executive chanting demands for reinstatement of day care subsidies.

Millionaire county executive, Chris Collins, and his administration decided that the subsidies that have made day care affordable for many families are too expensive for county taxpayers. In December, almost without warning, the rules were changed to eliminate subsidies for over 1,100 children — four in 10 of those who were covered last year. Parents were given only a 10-day notice.

This was met with a shocked outcry from the community, and the county was forced to extend the deadline to 30 days. Parents were told to find alternative arrangements.

WW photo: Leslie Feinberg

Mothers protested that even that amount of time was ridiculously inadequate. Many noted they needed day care because they did not have other resources for caring for their children as they worked or went to school to attain job skills. Others spoke about how they are portrayed as not wanting to work, which is just not true, yet their efforts are sabotaged when day care support is taken away, making reliable care for their children while working or going to school impossible. They chanted “90 days” over and over, and demanded more time to find the money.

WW photo: Leslie Feinberg

Sympathetic women county legislators representing the poorest districts have revealed that there are surplus county funds that could be used to cover subsidies until other sources can be found. Legislator Maria Whyte said there is unanimity in the legislature to delay the cuts. Collins, however, refuses to use the surplus funds. He and the powerful corporate forces behind him have been under fire not only from working mothers but also from many other county residents who are suffering from the impact of cuts to services that are not mandated by state or federal bodies. This includes closing down the last two health care clinics in inner-city poor neighborhoods.

Fewer and fewer people here believe that there’s not enough money for the services people need. Instead, most are talking about the huge transfer of tax money to the banks. People are also very aware of the county and city tax funds that are repeatedly directed to Lake Erie waterfront development for big business and expensive condos, even during this deep recession.

Protest signs on the march reflected the struggle between these rich corporate forces and those representing the needs of working and poor people. Mothers and children carried signs such as, “Cuts hurt our children” and “Invest in our children’s future.” Voice-CSEA, the Voice of Organized Independent Childcare Educators, showed that there is common interest between those who need day care and those who provide it. They held up the International Action Center’s sign that said, “No to more cuts! Unite to fight for programs we need.”

Several protesters carried signs saying, “Cuts = Lost Jobs.” Youth members of People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) brought out supporters. Other activists demanded, “Our tax dollars for our needs, not big business!” and noted, “Big bucks for developers never trickle down.” Protesters from the International Action Center and the Bail Out the People Movement pointed out that there is enough money for day care, jobs and all human needs.