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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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01.30.2020 | NY Daily News | Advocates have long protested the lack of special education pre-K classes for 3- and 4-year-olds, which is federally mandated, even as the city invests millions in universal pre-K.

But the new analysis by Advocates For Children shows the alarming scope of the problem affecting kids who are most in need of early schooling.

“Unless government leaders take immediate action, hundreds of children with autism and other disabilities will miss out on their mandated services this spring in violation of their civil rights, and we will squander this opportunity to provide support at the point in a child’s development when it is likely to be most effective,” said Kim Sweet, executive director of the advocacy group. Read article

01.30.2020 | Chalkbeat NY | Three-year-old Aiden Flores, who has autism and is nonverbal, has been at home in East New York without services since December, when he aged out of Early Intervention services for children with disabilities and became eligible to enroll in preschool.

Even though the education department determined last October that Aiden needed a special education placement with a smaller class size, they have been unable to offer him one, leaving him without any instruction or the speech and behavior therapy that was helping him become more expressive and social.

“I did my own research, I was calling schools,” said Juanita Lopez, Aiden’s mother. “And I’m like, ‘What do you mean? You don’t even have one for me to tour?’”

Officials at Advocates for Children, which is helping the family, said the education department is exploring options and offered a seat in a classroom that has twice as many students as Aiden’s special education learning plan calls for — an imperfect option Lopez is reluctant to accept. Read article

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