The team from I.S. 318 in Brooklyn currently receives $20,000 from the city, money that could go away if the proposed budget, which calls for $130 million to be cut from child care and after-school programs is passed by the city council
By Mark Morales / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Thursday, June 6, 2013, 8:08 PMIt could be checkmate for Brooklyn’s chess darlings if city officials cut funding for afterschool programs.
Parents and teachers at Intermediate School 318 in Williamsburg have been struggling to raise enough money to keep the program afloat for the last five years.
Without the much-needed funding, the team couldn’t train after-school or attend local tournaments — virtually killing the famed program which took national titles last year in junior high school and high school divisions.
“It would be like a football team that can’t hold practice before the big game on Sunday,” said assistant principal John Galvin. “To achieve the same level of success would be nearly impossible.”
The program has been so successful, Hollywood hotshot producer Scott Rudin purchased the rights from Katie Dellamaggiore, who created the 2012 documentary “Brooklyn Castle” about the team.
The chess program costs $60,000 to run — which includes classes after-school and travel to local tournaments on the weekends — according to Galvin.
The city kicks in $20,000 as part of the afterschool funding.
Faculty and the chess masters have been working overtime to raise the rest of the money by selling candy, running bake sales and appealing to private donors.
But Galvin said if they needed to raise an extra $20,000 to cover what the city kicks in, it would be a death blow.
“This is the best chess program in the U.S. I don’t even know how we would break the news to the kids,” said Galvin.
So far, city officials and members of the city council are trying to hammer out a budget which is due by June 30. The current budget on the table calls for $130 million to be cut from child care and after-school programs.
Teachers and students at the school said they’d be crushed if the program was axed.
“I love the chess program. It’s more than just a game,” said sixth grader Lennin Antunish, 12. I’ve played it all my life. I would be pretty devastated if it gets cut.”
Chess teacher Elizabeth Spiegel said the pressure to raise money is constant.
“It’s a terrible thing,” said Spiegel “It’s hard to have a program when you don’t know year to year if it’s going to exist.”
But IS 318’s chess program isn’t the only one on the chopping block. Advocates estimate 47,000 children will lose out on childcare and after-school programs if the cuts go through.