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Paige’s Story

Paige, a bright third grade student on the autism spectrum, sat at home for nearly two months waiting for a school placement that would meet her needs. 

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03.01.2019 | Click on the links below to learn more about each of AFC's advocacy priorities for the FY 2020 City budget. 

Support for students who are homeless [PDF
In 2017-18, a record 114,659 New York City students were identified as homeless—a 66 percent increase since the 2010-11 school year. The final FY 19 budget included $13.9 million in one-year funding for Department of Education (DOE) support for students experiencing homelessness, including “Bridging the Gap” social workers to work with students living in shelters at schools with high numbers of these students, after-school literacy programs at shelters, and enrollment support for families. There is no funding in the FY 20 Preliminary Budget to continue these initiatives or for any other new supports for students who are homeless. The FY 20 budget must include and baseline last year's $13.9 million and add and baseline an additional $6.5 million to increase the number of DOE social workers dedicated to supporting students in shelters, establish an Education Support Center at the City’s shelter intake center, and increase the number of Students in Temporary Housing Central and Regional Managers. 

On March 5, 2019, AFC and more than a dozen 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 students experiencing homelessness. 

Support for students in foster care [PDF]
Approximately 5,600 New York City students are in foster care. Students in foster care are among the most likely to need special education services, get suspended, repeat a grade, or leave high school without a diploma. Students often have to change schools upon their initial placement in foster care in New York City because they have no way to get to their original schools. The FY 20 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. The budget should also include and baseline $1.5 million to establish a Department of Education office focused on supporting students in foster care with central and borough-based staff.

School accessibility [PDF
Less than 1 in 5 of the City’s schools are fully accessible. 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. The proposed 5-year DOE Capital Plan (FY 2020-2024) includes $750 million for school accessibility, starting with $150 million for FY 20. We recommend that the final Capital Plan include at least this funding level, which would represent the largest capital funding investment in school accessibility to date.  

Investments to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline [PDF
Every child deserves to attend a high-quality school with staff who have the necessary tools and resources for building healthy, supportive, safe, and equitable learning environments for students and educators. We urge the City to invest in a comprehensive reform package that includes increasing the number of social workers; expanding whole-school restorative practices citywide; and investing in a mental health continuum to provide direct services to students at high-needs schools.

02.27.2019 | In a decision received this week, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) found that Success Academy Charter Schools and the New York City Department of Education (DOE) violated the civil rights of students with disabilities. The decision [PDF] was issued in response to a complaint [PDF] that Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), with its pro bono co-counsel, Akin Gump, filed in November 2018 against Success Academy Charter Schools and the DOE. 

NYSED sustained each allegation, finding that Success Academy Charter Schools violated laws protecting the educational rights of students with disabilities. In particular:

  • Success Academy failed to implement students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). The schools did not provide the special education classes, small group special education instruction, or testing accommodations that the students had the right to receive.
  • Success Academy changed the special education placements of students with disabilities without offering their parents an opportunity for input, failing to provide the legally mandated notices, meetings, and due process procedures. 
  • Success Academy failed to comply with orders issued at special education administrative hearings. Even after parents requested administrative hearings and got orders requiring Success Academy to move their students back to their original classes, Success Academy refused to comply, in violation of the law.

In addition, NYSED found that the DOE violated the rights of students with disabilities at Success Academy schools by failing to provide parents with the legally required notice before changes of special education placements and failing to ensure compliance with orders issued at special education administrative hearings. NYSED’s decision called the lack of coordination and communication between Success Academy schools and the DOE regarding Success Academy students with disabilities a “breakdown in the process.”  

NYSED issued a Compliance Assurance Plan, requiring Success Academy Charter Schools and the DOE to take corrective action to remedy these violations in the upcoming months.

“This decision makes clear that students do not give up their civil rights when they enter a charter school, and parents do not give up their voice in their children’s education,” said Kim Sweet, Executive Director of AFC.  “Charter schools have more autonomy than other public schools, but do not get to decide which special education laws to follow.”

“The NYSED decision provides much-needed clarity as to the dual-responsibility of charter schools and the DOE to uphold the rights of students with disabilities,” said Caitlin Griffin, Associate at Akin Gump.

“My daughter was in the wrong special education placement at a Success school for over 7 months,” said Brenda Melendez-Lozada, the parent of a former student at Success Academy.  “With this decision, I hope that no other child will have to go through what she experienced.” 

Read the news release [PDF

Read the decision [PDF

Read the complaint [PDF]

02.27.2019 | Today, Advocates for Children is testifying before the New York City Council Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities and Addiction regarding the gap in access to direct mental health services and behavior supports for students with significant emotional, behavioral, and mental health needs. Read our testimony [PDF]

02.25.2019 | Today, Advocates for Children and the ARISE Coalition (coordinated by AFC) are both testifying before the New York City Council Committee on Education regarding the provision of special education services. The City must do more to extend the vision of equity and excellence in education to students with disabilities and to ensure that the needs of students with disabilities are considered and addressed in every DOE policy decision.

Read AFC's testimony [PDF]
Read the ARISE Coalition's testimony [PDF]

02.14.2019 | AFC submitted testimony for the New York State Joint Legislative Public Hearing on the 2019-2020 Health Budget proposal, urging legislators to increase the reimbursement rate for Early Intervention providers to help ensure children can get their services in a timely manner. Read testimony [PDF]

02.07.2019 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) issued the following statement in response to the release of the City’s Fiscal Year 2020 Preliminary Budget:

The Preliminary Budget released today by Mayor Bill de Blasio would eliminate funding for the Department of Education’s Bridging the Gap social workers for students living in shelters.  Currently, there are 69 Bridging the Gap social workers who work in schools with high populations of students living in shelter, but the funding expires at the end of the school year.  For the past two years, the Mayor has omitted the funding from his Preliminary Budget, restoring the funding in his Executive Budget following an outcry from advocates and elected officials.  This year, the Mayor has, once again, omitted the funding from his Preliminary Budget.

“We are appalled that the Mayor continues to play budget games with critical supports for students living in shelters,” said Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York.  “With more than 100,000 students experiencing homelessness, the City should be increasing the number of Bridging the Gap social workers, not putting the continuation of the program in jeopardy.”

The Bridging the Gap social workers provide counseling to students who are homeless to help address the trauma often associated with housing loss, connect them to academic support and mental health services, and work to address chronic absenteeism.  

Since the 2010-2011 school year, the number of New York City students identified as homeless increased by 66%.  During the 2017-2018 school year, 114,659 students were identified as homeless by New York City school districts and charter schools.  More than 100 city schools have at least 50 students living in shelters and no Bridging the Gap social worker to focus on the needs of these students.  

View statement as a PDF

02.06.2019 | AFC is testifying at the New York State Joint Legislative Public Hearing on the 2019-2020 Elementary and Secondary Education Budget proposal, urging legislators to increase investments in education initiatives such as positive approaches to discipline, preschool special education programs, prekindergarten, and support for Multilingual Learners, and to reject harmful special education proposals. Read our testimony [PDF]

02.05.2019 | Ahead of a public hearing on proposed education funding in the New York state budget, the Safe and Supportive Schools Coalition urges lawmakers to expand support for school discipline reforms. Education advocates, community organizations and civil rights groups have called for an investment of $50 million dollars into school climate improvement measures, through legislation known as the Safe and Supportive Schools Act (A.1981/S.0767).

The Governor’s budget proposal included $3 million dollars for school discipline reform measures, including resources for teachers and school administrators to address student mental health, supports for alternatives to exclusionary discipline, and legislation to require school districts to reduce and regulate the role of police officers in schools. Education justice advocates welcome the Governor’s support but stress that the budget proposal must go further. 

Advocates call for the reforms to include a prohibition on suspending students in Kindergarten through third grade, an end to suspensions for minor infractions, a limit of 20 days for out-of-school suspensions, and an increase in positive behavioral supports and interventions for students.

A joint Senate and Assembly hearing on the education components of the state budget will take place in Albany on February 6. 

Rebecca Shore, Advocates for Children of New York: “While we are encouraged that the Governor included in his proposed budget funding for training teachers and school staff on alternatives to suspension, including restorative practices and positive behavioral supports, the proposed amount in the budget is not enough to meet the needs of the state.   An allocation of the recommended $50 million along with passage of the Safe and Supportive Schools Act is necessary.”

Read the press release [PDF]

The Safe and Supportive Schools coalition includes Advancement Project, Advocates for Children of New York, Alliance for Quality Education, Children’s Defense Fund, Citizen Action of New York, Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, The Legal Aid Society, Make the Road New York, New York Civil Liberties Union, Student Advocacy, Urban Youth Collaborative and the YWCA of Brooklyn. 

12.18.2018 | AFC testified before the New York City Council Committee on Education, Committee on Finance, and Subcommittee on Capital Budget in support of the proposal to include $750 million in the FY 2020-2024 Capital Plan to improve school accessibility. Read our testimony [PDF]

12.17.2018 | Today, Advocates for Children testified before the City Council Committee on General Welfare regarding recommendations for supporting students experiencing homelessness. Read our testimony [PDF]