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06.14.2018 | Today, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement in response to the New York City Council’s vote to adopt the Fiscal Year 2019 city budget: 

School Accessibility: We thank the Mayor and the City Council for including in the budget an additional $150 million over three years to make more schools accessible to students, parents, and teachers with mobility, hearing, or vision needs.  For too long, the City has tolerated a system where students who use wheelchairs or otherwise need accessible buildings are effectively barred from most schools.  No child should be turned away from school because they can’t get into the building.  The funding for school accessibility in this year’s budget is an important move forward. 

Support for Students who are Homeless: We thank the City Council for adding $2 million to fund approximately 20 additional Bridging the Gap school social workers for students living in shelters.  Along with the 10 additional social workers that the Mayor included in his Executive Budget in April, this investment means the City will move from 43 Bridging the Gap social workers to approximately 73.  While the budget does not go as far as we had hoped, this investment will make a big difference in the ability of 30 additional schools to meet the needs of students living in shelters.

View statement as a PDF

06.06.2018 | On March 23, AFC testified before the New York City Council Committee on Education regarding the Fiscal Year 2019 Preliminary Budget. On May 24, we testified before the City Council Committee on Finance regarding the Executive Budget. Read our full March [PDF] and May [PDF] testimonies, and click on the links below to learn more about each of AFC's advocacy priorities. 

Support for students who are homeless [PDF
In 2016-17, a record 104,088 New York City students were identified as homeless, yet the FY19 Preliminary Budget would eliminate funding for DOE social workers and other supports for students living in shelters. The final budget must restore and baseline last year's funding to continue these initiatives, and add an additional $20 million to increase the number of DOE social workers dedicated to supporting students who are homeless, provide support to schools through the Field Support Centers, and establish high-level DOE leadership focused on this population.

Along with fifteen leading child advocacy, education, and housing organizations, AFC sent a letter to Mayor de Blasio [PDF], urging him to include a significant infusion of resources in the budget to support students experiencing homelessness. AFC and Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York have also issued Recommendations for Improving School Access and Success for Rising Numbers of Students in Temporary Housing [PDF]. 

On April 16, 30 New York City Council Members and the Council's Progressive Caucus called on the Mayor to increase funding for students who are homeless, sending a letter to City Hall [PDF] in support of these proposals.

On June 4, 16 organizations sent a second letter to Mayor de Blasio [PDF] calling on him to invest more resources to support students who are homeless, including by increasing the number of Bridging the Gap school social workers who serve students living in shelter from the 53 social workers proposed in the Executive Budget to 100 social workers. 

Busing for K-6 students in foster care [PDF
Three out of 10 students have to change schools upon their initial placement in foster care in New York City, often because they have no way to get to their original schools. The FY19 budget should include $5 million for yellow bus service for students in grades K-6 in foster care to ensure school remains a source of stability in their lives.

On June 4, 27 organizations sent a letter [PDF] to Mayor de Blasio calling on him to invest more resources to support students in foster care, including by extending bus service to students in foster care so they are not forced to transfer schools.

Investments in evidence-based practices to improve school climate [PDF
We urge the City to include $2.8 million per year to launch and sustain a mental health support continuum pilot to help ensure that students in 20 high-needs schools have access to direct mental health services when needed, as well as an additional $1 million per year to implement whole-school Collaborative Problem Solving in 25 high-needs schools.

Increased funding to improve school accessibility [PDF
Given the current lack of fully accessible school buildings, students with physical disabilities have limited options when applying to pre-K, elementary, middle, and high school programs. AFC recommends the City dedicate an additional $125 million towards making 15-17 additional schools fully accessible and improving the accessibility of additional schools through minor renovation projects. 

On March 26, we testified before the New York City Council Committee on Education regarding this proposal. Read our testimony [PDF].

first page of report05.24.2018 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York issued a new publication entitled Gaps in Social Workers for Students Living in Shelters [PDF], documenting the number of New York City schools with high concentrations of students living in shelters that do not have a social worker to serve these students. 

During the 2016-2017 school year, 38,000 New York City students lived in shelters.  The City has taken a positive step by placing 43 “Bridging the Gap” social workers in schools with high populations of students living in shelters to focus on serving this population.  These social workers have provided counseling to students, connected them to academic support and mental health services, and worked to improve attendance. 

Despite a push by elected officials and advocates to expand this program significantly, Mayor de Blasio’s Executive Budget proposal would add only 10 Bridging the Gap social workers, for a total of 53 social workers citywide. AFC’s analysis shows that this proposed modest increase falls far short of meeting the need.  

While schools cannot end the homelessness crisis, they can help students living in shelter overcome obstacles and succeed in school, but only if they have sufficient support.  The City should double the number of school social workers focused on serving students living in shelters.

View the press release [PDF
Read the report [PDF]

05.24.2018 | Today, AFC is testifying before the City Council Committee on Finance on the importance of increasing funding for several education priorities, including school social workers for students living in shelter, school accessibility for students with physical disabilities, and evidence-based practices to improve school climate. Read our testimony [PDF]. 

The ARISE Coalition, which is coordinated by AFC, is also testifying, urging the Council to negotiate a final budget that includes additional funding for school accessibility. Read ARISE's testimony [PDF].

05.21.2018 | On May 15, members of the ARISE Coalition, which is coordinated by AFC, and Parents for Inclusive Education (PIE) wrote to Mayor de Blasio and the New York City Council, urging them to ensure that the final FY 2019 budget includes the City Council’s recommendation for an additional $125 million for school accessibility projects. 

The 2015-2019 Capital Plan allocates only $100 million over five years for improving school accessibility and $28 million for ensuring that a number of schools can serve as accessible emergency shelters. Together, that represents less than one percent of the total funding in the Plan. Furthermore, the City has already spent the vast majority of this funding, leaving little, if any, funding for accessibility projects in the coming year. New York City cannot be the "fairest big city in America" until students, families, and teachers with physical disabilities have equitable access to the City’s schools.

Read the letters [PDF].

04.26.2018 | Today, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement in response to the release of the New York City Fiscal Year 2019 Executive Budget: 

We are pleased that the City is allocating an additional $125 million to 854 high-needs schools through Fair Student Funding.  This much-needed funding will help schools pay for an extra staff member or a variety of programs to meet needs identified by each individual school.  

At the same time, there are important citywide needs that must be addressed through targeted investments and cannot be left to the discretion of individual schools.  To this end, we are encouraged that the City is increasing funding to provide anti-bias training and to help improve literacy for students, including students with disabilities, English Language Learners (ELLs), and students living in shelters.

But more work is needed to advance equity and excellence for students being left behind.  Before the budget process concludes, we hope that Mayor de Blasio and the City Council will increase funding in the following areas:

Support for Students who are Homeless:
With 100,000 students homeless, adding just 10 DOE school-based social workers to support students living in shelter is grossly inadequate.  While the City works to address the overwhelming problem of homelessness, they must invest in senior-level DOE leadership and a significant expansion of DOE social workers at schools and in shelters to mitigate the impact of homelessness on children and ensure they can get a high-quality education.

Evidence-Based Approaches to Improve School Climate:
In order to ensure that every child can attend a safe, high-quality school where students, teachers, and staff are treated with dignity and respect, the City must increase investments in direct mental health services for students and fund whole-school training for school staff in collaborative problem solving.  These evidence-based approaches help schools support students with challenging behaviors and were recommended by the Mayoral Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline to keep students in school learning instead of punishing them through exclusionary discipline practices, which do not address the underlying causes of the behavior.

School Accessibility:
As he affirms his commitment to diversity and inclusion, the Mayor must address the severe shortage of accessible schools so that no child, parent, or teacher is turned away from a school because they cannot get in the doors.  The City Council should stand firm on its recommendation to invest an additional $125 million to make more schools accessible.

Bus Service for Students in Foster Care:
While the City took a significant step forward two years ago by offering yellow bus service to students living in shelters, the City must now extend bus service to students in foster care so they do not have to transfer schools mid-year due to lack of transportation.

We look forward to working with the Mayor and the City Council as the budget process continues to ensure the final budget invests in these critical areas.

View statement as a PDF

04.25.2018 | Today, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement in response to the announcement by Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Johnson regarding the increase in funding for Fair Student Funding: 

We are pleased that the City is allocating an additional $125 million to 854 high-needs schools through Fair Student Funding.  Before the budget process concludes, the City must also increase funding for targeted supports for students who are currently being left behind and ensure funding is used to provide systemic solutions.  Only targeted investments will ensure that students living in shelters get the support of social workers to get to school every day and receive needed counseling, that students with behavioral challenges get direct mental health services and school staff trained in collaborative problem solving to help them stay in school, that kindergarten through sixth grade students placed in foster care get bus service so they do not have to transfer schools mid-year, and that students with physical disabilities have accessible schools so they are not sent far outside their neighborhoods because they cannot get in the doors of their local schools.

View statement as a PDF

03.23.2018 | On March 28th at 6pm, join the Junior Board of Advocates for Children of New York and NYU Law School's Disability Allied Law Students Association, Education Law & Policy Society, Black Allied Law Students Association, and Suspension Representation Project for a panel discussion on the school-to-prison pipeline. The panel will be moderated by AFC School Justice Project Director Dawn Yuster and will examine the different ways race and disability intersect with school discipline practices, the delivery of special education services, and graduation rates that together shape the school-to-prison pipeline. Please RSVP.

panel flyer

03.15.2018 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) and Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York (CCC) called on Mayor de Blasio to provide critical support to students who are homeless, releasing a publication entitled Recommendations for Improving School Access and Success for Rising Numbers of Students in Temporary Housing [PDF].  In addition, sixteen leading child advocacy, education, and housing organizations sent a letter to Mayor de Blasio [PDF] urging him to include a significant infusion of resources in the budget to support these students.

In 2016-2017, a record 104,088 New York City students were identified as homeless—a 50 percent increase from just five years ago.  For the past two years, the Administration included $10.3 million in the budget to support students who are homeless, including funding for 43 Department of Education “Bridging the Gap” social workers to work with students living in shelters at schools with high populations of these students.  These social workers have provided counseling to students, connected them to academic support and mental health services, and worked to improve attendance.  

However, the Mayor’s recent budget proposal did not include any funding to continue these initiatives.  When asked about this omission, the Mayor stated that he was still determining what type of support to include for these students in the 2019 budget.

Given the number of students in temporary housing and the barriers they face to school success, the organizations are urging the Mayor to:

  1. Establish a Deputy Chancellor’s Office for Highly Mobile Students (including students in temporary housing and students in foster care)
  2. Hire Field Support Center Directors for Highly Mobile Students
  3. Increase the number of DOE Bridging the Gap school-based social workers for students in shelters from 43 social workers to 100
  4. Hire 50 DOE social workers to provide intensive supports at shelters to address education-related issues 

“With more than 100,000 students homeless, we have a crisis situation that demands high-level leadership from the Department of Education,” said Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children.  “The Mayor’s goals of equity and excellence require bold action to help ensure that students who are homeless can get to school every day and receive the counseling and academic support they need to succeed.” 

“The family homelessness crisis demands that City leaders take additional steps to better support homeless children both get to school and succeed in school,” said Jennifer March, Executive Director of Citizens’ Committee for Children.  “This starts with restoring the funding currently supporting social workers, but must also include prioritizing the needs of homeless students and investing in additional supports to reduce absenteeism and help homeless students thrive.”

View news release as a PDF

02.13.2018 | On February 12, 2018, AFC submitted testimony for the New York State Joint Legislative Public Hearing on the 2018-2019 Health Budget proposal, urging legislators to increase the reimbursement rate for Early Intervention providers and to reject a budget proposal to restructure the Early Intervention screening and evaluation process. View testimony [PDF]

Previously, on January 31, AFC testified at the hearing on the 2018-2019 Elementary and Secondary Education Budget proposal, urging state legislators to increase investments in education initiatives such as positive approaches to discipline, prekindergarten, and support for English Language Learners and to reject harmful special education proposals. View testimony [PDF]