Notable News: Massive Cuts to After-School Programs, Redefining Autism, Unhealthy Food Fight, Join the Circus

News of interest to NYC parents

We usually do these links posts once every two weeks, but so many stories caught our eye over the past seven days, we couldn't wait to share.

This batch is heavy on education-related news, including a stomach-churning breakdown of public school lunches, major budget cuts to after-school programs and a new definition of autism that could change available services.

Before you grab a bottle of aspirin (or vodka), not all of the news is bad. We've also got info on a new Montessori that's open 24/seven, the annual Doodle 4 Google competition and an open call for young circus performers—and we're not clowning around.

Free after-school programs at city schools are on the chopping block, meaning tens of thousands of kids may be heading home early next fall. It sounds like the impact on working parents, especially low-income families, could be devastating.

If that bummed you out, chew on this: Prisoners may be eating better than our children. This stunning graphic compares the average inmate's meal with public school lunch. And schools spend more. A lot more...on junk, apparently.

According to The New York Times, a proposed redefinition of autism could lead to loss of services for many special needs kids, especially higher-functioning ones.

Ready for some uplifting news? (We are.) How about a chance for your child to enter the annual Doodle 4 Google competition? One talented youngster will walk away with a $30,000 college scholarship and see his or her work turned into a Doodle for a day. We realize the odds aren't great, but really, the fun is sharing your creative vision.

It feels like we all work odd hours these days, which is why a new preschool in Kips Bay plans to stay open around the clock. The Gold Material Montessori School opens its doors on February 2, and is already accepting applications for children ages 2-6.

Got a tween geek at home? (We're talking computers, not comic books). Then consider The Academy of Software Engineering, a new high school aimed at kids who are interested in learning software development, which opens this fall.

Here's an admirable goal: The Herding Cats blog wants to erase the word “retarded” from our vocabulary, and ensure its off-handed use dies with our generation.

When we were researching our recent post about restaurants where kids can play, we found out that popular Park Slope eatery/arcade PSbklyn just bit the dust. Now we hear Times Square's space-themed restaurant/arcade Mars 2112 has also closed. Aspiring astronauts and tourists are currently grieving.

And finally, do your kids want to run off and join the circus? Well they can—at least for an afternoon or two. The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus is looking for performers under age 21 for its upcoming Cavalcade of Youth performances, one at Dixon Place on Sunday, March 11, the other in Coney Island on Saturday, March 27. If your kids think they've got what it takes, find out how to apply on the website.