By Sr. Paulette LoMonaco
Executive Director of Good Shepherd Services, an affiliate of Catholic Charities
(Excerpts from Sr. LoMonaco’s editorial published in today’s Daily News)
It is hard to find anyone who does not think a school benefits from having an after-school program. The programs are an ideal way to protect and nurture students while helping families juggle work schedules.
Unfortunately, well-intentioned bureaucracy is getting in the way of common sense in regulating these programs, and our children and families are paying the price.
This is a story of regulation run amok, and it starts in Albany.
After-school programs in schools are regulated by two different agencies at the state level…Their rules often come into direct conflict with each other.
(For example) Have you ever walked into a school without posters and student work on the walls? Probably not; teachers are routinely encouraged to make their classrooms visually engaging.
However, Office of Children and Family Services regulations regard those posters as a fire hazard and, as a result, there are after-school staff throughout the state who every day have to carefully take them down at 3 p.m. — and put them back up at 6 p.m…
In some cases, children are actually out on the streets because programs that would have kept them safe and engaged until their parents come home were waiting — sometimes for a whole school year — for a waiver or a minor repair. This affront to common sense is no one’s fault and certainly is not intentional, but that does not absolve us from finding a solution to the damage caused by dueling regulations.
Fortunately, someone’s listening to complaints. State Sen. Simcha Felder of Brooklyn and Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo of Binghamton have a bill that would solve the problem, by simply waiving building-related conflicts for any after-school program operating in a public school building in compliance with Education Department requirements. It’s been approved by the relevant Senate and Assembly committees.
The legislation makes perfect sense. It does not ask the Office of Children and Family Services to change in any way, shape or form regulations tailored to protecting children in other aspects of the after-school program, such as staffing ratios, nutrition, activities or background checks. Nor will it change physical requirements for after-school programs outside a school building.
Let’s fix this crazy quilt of regulations and finally let school-based after-school programs focus on meeting the needs of our children and families.
Read the full editorial in today’s Daily News.