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Micaela’s Story

Micaela is a dual-language learner who is on the autism spectrum and needed an appropriate school placement for kindergarten.

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AFC in the News

01.30.2020 | CBS New York | According to a new report by Advocates for Children of New York, the city is expected to have a shortfall of between 1,028 to nearly 2,000 seats for preschool special education classes in the spring when the demand is the highest, especially in the Bronx.

“Children have a legal right to receive the full set of services outlined in their special education plan,” said Randi Levine, policy director for Advocates for Children of New York.

That legal right is not being fully met, despite the city adding more than 1,000 seats over the last two years. Read article

01.30.2020 | NY1 | "The term ‘universal pre-K really’ bothers me. Because it's universal for kids that don't have special needs,” said Joanne Gerenser, director of Eden II programs, a special needs provider on Staten Island.

That problem is detailed in a new report from Advocates for Children, which projects a shortfall of between 1,000 and 2,000 special education pre-K seats across the five boroughs this spring.

"For children with autism and other disabilities, every day matters. So, this problem is urgent," said Randi Levine, policy director of Advocates for Children. Read article

01.16.2020 | Chalkbeat NY | Ashley Grant, a staff attorney for child advocacy group Advocates For Children New York, said the “troubling” disparities in graduation rates between students of different races and abilities illustrate why the state should be rethinking diploma requirements.

“It will be critical that the State Education Department and the Board of Regents keep these opportunity gaps a central focus as the state re-examines graduation requirements over the next two years,” Grant said.

The Regents are expected to consider changes by 2022. Read article

01.07.2020 | Chalkbeat NY | Maggie Moroff, a disability policy expert at Advocates for Children, said there could be real benefits to the district running a school that explicitly services students with reading challenges  — including making phonics-based reading instruction more widely available. 

“There’s a need for additional evidence-based literacy instruction and I’m thrilled that people are thinking about ways to deliver it,” she said. Read article

01.02.2020 | Chalkbeat NY | There’s already a shortage of more than 300 seats in special education pre-K classrooms in New York City, and about 30 special education pre-K programs have closed in the past few years, according to Advocates for Children. The nonprofit sent a letter last month to city leaders demanding swift action to stave off a potential teacher exodus from special education preschool programs.  Read article

12.21.2019 | CNN | In New York City alone, over 114,000 students were identified as homeless in the 2018-19 school year, according to New York State Education Department data posted by Advocates for Children of New York, a local nonprofit organization. That's one in 10 students, and 85% of them are Black or Hispanic. The trend has grown over 70% in the last decade, the data shows.

When we think about this phenomenon, many of us picture single individuals begging for money at street corners, or sleeping outside, but that's not the full picture. "The face of homelessness is children and families, and these children are in school everyday alongside children who are in permanent housing," says Randi Levine from Advocates for Children of New York, a local nonprofit focused on the rights of homeless students. Read article

12.18.2019 | Queens Daily Eagle | A lack of affordable housing is driving a homelessness crisis across the city, where families with children account for the majority of people staying in New York City Department of Homeless Services shelters. Tens of thousands of other homeless families lived doubled up, sharing space with family members, friends of other people — a particular problem in Elmhurst and Corona, the report found. 

The homelessness crisis is also evident in state education data. School District 24, which includes Corona and Elmhurst, accounted for more than a quarter of the roughly 20,000 Queens schoolchildren who were homeless at some point last year, according to state reports examined by the organization Advocates for Children of New York. 

At least 5,264 students in School District 24 were homeless at some point last school year, according to the state data. Read article

12.16.2019 | The 74 | The special education system in New York City is vast, serving upward of 200,000 students across K-12. Its handling of these students’ individual learning needs has been widely criticized, with recent reports exposing skyrocketing special-education-related complaints and severe delays in addressing them. Even with the revelation that 84.3 percent of students in special education last year received all of the services mandated by their Individualized Education Programs — up from 78.4 percent in 2017-18 — organizations such as Advocates for Children of New York have stressed that there are still nearly 29,000 students not getting their full, legally required supports.

When Marisol Nunez recalls how her daughter was left behind in school, it brings her to tears.

Emely, a Latina student in NYC, was still reading at a second-grade level when she was 14. And although school staff had brought Emely’s floundering academics to her mother’s attention, it was years before anyone told Nunez a crucial detail: Something could be done about it.

“They just started to say that she was struggling, but I never heard anything from the district that she needed special support,” Nunez said in Spanish through a translator. She spoke on behalf of her now 17-year-old daughter, who, after advocate intervention, is receiving services for a language disorder and learning disability. Read article

12.14.2019 | NY Daily News | “It’s clearly not helping students in crisis, or helping school staff respond to and prevent further crises,” said Dawn Yuster, school justice director with the non-profit Advocates for Children. “That’s what we’re hearing from school staff.”

The DOE’s crisis teams are ill-staffed and often fail to promptly respond to students in meltdowns, Yuster said.

That leaves many school administrators no choice but to call 911 for an ambulance to haul the student to a hospital ER, or for cops to forcibly remove the child.

In 2016-17, schools called the NYPD for 2,702 incidents of “students in emotional distress” — half aged 4 to 12, an Advocates for Children analysis found. In 330 cases, cops clamped handcuffs on kids, some as young as 5. Read article

12.10.2019 | City Limits | City public and charter schools identified 114,085 kids — one-in-10 students — who experienced homelessness at some point during the 2018-2019 school year, according to state data published by Advocates for Children of New York; 85 percent of the homeless students were Black or Latino.

Homeless children often become homeless adults, contributing to a cycle of generational poverty, says Josef Kannegaard, principal policy analyst at the Institute for Children Poverty and Homelessness.

“What we’re seeing in the city is a lot of students who are being exposed to negative effects of homelessness at a very early age and experiencing challenges to their emotional-social behavior,” Kannegaard says. Read article