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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

08.22.2019 | Wall Street Journal | Kim Sweet, executive director of Advocates for Children of New York, which seeks to protect the rights of at-risk students, lamented enormous disparities for children with disabilities: Roughly 16% of them passed in English. “Teaching all children how to read is the most fundamental responsibility of schools,” she said. “Now is the time for the city to double down on its efforts to improve literacy instruction.” Read article

08.21.2019 | Chalkbeat New York | City officials have asked the state to drop its request to provide a full range of services in the Pathways program, arguing it is not required by law and would pose big logistical challenges. But advocates contend that the city is shortchanging students who need services most: Those who have struggled in traditional high schools, or new arrivals to the country, whose chance at applying to college, joining the military, or getting on a path to higher wages hinges on earning an equivalency diploma. “Students with disabilities should have the same access,” said Ashley Grant, an attorney at Advocates for Children, an organization that works with special needs families. “Right now, they don’t.” Read article

08.20.2019 | New York Daily News | The city currently places foster care students on buses only if a route already exists. It also buses students whose special education plans require it — a substantial chunk of students in foster care. But for the remaining students, the Education Department offers only a MetroCard. For elementary schoolchildren who can’t travel alone, that means foster parents have to choose between spending hours shepherding kids on public transit, or simply switching schools, said Randi Levine, the policy director of Advocates for Children. Read article

08.19.2019 | The 74 | “Every step along the way brings its own questions and confusion, forms to be filled out, meetings to attend and rights to be aware of,” explained Maggie Moroff, special education coordinator at Advocates for Children of New York. She described special ed as “a crazy, complicated system where parents are forced to be their own advocates.” ... Said Moroff, “Our support line got around 3,000 calls just last year from parents who are struggling, who have questions, who don’t know where to start, don’t know where to turn, don’t know what their next steps are, don’t understand why their school isn’t seeing their kids’ needs the same way.” Read article

08.15.2019 | WBAI Justice Matters | AFC School Justice Project Director Dawn Yuster was a guest on Justice Matters with Bob Gangi on WBAI, where she discussed police presence in schools, the impact on students, and alternatives for creating safe and supportive learning environments. 

This track is the full show as aired August 15; Dawn joins at approximately 7:45. Also available on WBAI's website.

07.09.2019 | THE CITY | Representatives for the DOE also lack the authority to determine when a case should be settled rather than litigated. That setup leads to few quick resolutions, even when both sides agree, said Rebecca Shore of Advocates for Children, which works on behalf of at-risk kids. “I didn’t see any real plan that was going to improve the hearing system,” Shore said of the city’s submission to the state. “In fact, it seemed like the DOE punted on almost everything.” Read article

07.09.2019 | Chalkbeat New York | “These children only have one shot at education; whether we get it right or wrong today impacts their life chances,” said Randi Levine, the policy director at Advocates for Children, an organization that works with special needs families. The state’s initial report, known as a “Compliance Assurance Plan,” noted that the city had been violating federal law governing students with disabilities for the past 13 years and that previous efforts to reform the system had “not resulted in the systemic change necessary.” Read article

06.25.2019 | Brooklyn Daily Eagle | New York City is in need of more than 400 special education preschool seats as of May 29, according to a recently re-released New York State Education Department memo. While the city’s newest budget agreement allots for an additional 200 seats in September, the coming closures of two programs will cancel out more than 100 of those seats. “We have heard from parents desperate for their preschoolers to get the help they need, but who have been sitting at home for months waiting for a seat, while their peers attend universal pre-K classes,” Randi Levine, policy director of Advocates for Children of New York, told the Brooklyn Eagle. “Children have a legal right to these classes. While the city and state have many choices when it comes to early childhood education, providing preschool special classes to children who need them is not optional.” Read article

06.14.2019 | Chalkbeat New York | Eighty-five of the new social workers will work at high-needs middle schools as part of First Lady Chirlane McCray’s mental health initiative, ThriveNYC, officials said. At least 31 “Bridging the Gap” social workers will be added specifically for schools with higher concentrations of students in temporary housing — an increase that advocates had previously called for — but City Hall and other City Council members offered different figures. “Increasing the number of school social workers is a real notable step in the right direction,” said Dawn Yuster, director of the School Justice Project at Advocates for Children New York. “We are eager to continue working with the City Council and administration to build on this necessary support for students who desperately need mental health services and behavioral supports.” Read article

06.13.2019 | Chalkbeat New York | Advocates have called for 31 more social workers for schools that enroll 70 or more students living in shelters and that don’t have one. “We know the Council has been fighting for an influx of school social workers for high-needs schools, as well as an increase in Bridging the Gap social workers to assist students living in shelters,” said Randi Levine, policy director for Advocates for Children, a group that has lobbied for additional counselors. “Given the numerous calls we get about children’s mental health needs going unaddressed in school, increasing the number of school social workers is a priority.” Read article