New York City shelled out more than $200,000 in taxpayer funding in the past five years to have drag queens come into classrooms and interact with schoolchildren as young as age 3, according to a report.
The nonprofit Drag Story Hour NYC, previously known as Drag Queen Story Hour NYC, received approximately $207,000 in taxpayer funding since 2018, the New York Post reported, citing city records.
The total includes a $50,000 contribution from New York State through its Council on the Arts, along with $157,000 earmarked from New York City’s Departments of Education, Cultural Affairs, Youth and Community Development, and even from the Department of Transportation, according to the Post.
Records show that the non-profit received $46,000 from city contracts for appearances at public schools, street festivals and libraries in May alone ahead of Pride month.
The events involve cross-dressed drag performers reading to school children at public schools, libraries and other LGBTQ centers, but has expanded to also include coloring activities. Photos show drag performers also instructing children in classrooms how to apply drag makeup.
According to a reading list the non-profit shared online, performers read a variety of books ranging from classics like "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" and "The Rainbow Fish," which discuss topics like growth, acceptance and diversity, to others that more overtly discuss gender identity, such as "The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish Swish Swish" and "The Dragtivity Book."
According to its website, Drag Story Hour NYC so far this year has produced 49 Drag Story Hour programs for 34 individual public schools and special needs schools in English, Spanish, and Cantonese.
"It costs us $600 to produce each DSH program, but we only charge public schools $300 per program, and we offer a limited number of free programs for schools that can't afford the fee," according to the website, which asks for donations.
"Last year, we received $3900 from the NYC Department of Education to subsidize our free and low-cost programs in public schools. This year, we didn’t receive that funding and had to stop offering programs at our subsidized rate toward the end of the school year. This Pride month, we’re aiming to raise $6000 so that we can continue to provide free and low-cost programs for public school this fall."
Some parents who spoke to the Post said they were given advance notice about the drag events at their children’s schools but were not given an option to opt out, while other parents said they were given no advanced notice at all and only learned about the events afterward.
Reached by the Post, the New York City Department of Education defended the program as "life-saving."
"Last year, 50 transgender or gender-nonconforming people were killed in the United States due to their identity," DOE spokeswoman Suzan Sumer told the outlet. "We believe our schools play a critical role in helping young people learn about and respect people who may be different from them."