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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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10.28.19 | Today, the New York State Technical and Education Assistance Center for Homeless Students (NYS-TEACHS), a project of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), posted new data showing that the number of students in New York City identified as homeless during the 2018-2019 school year remained stubbornly high, topping 100,000 for the fourth consecutive year.

The data, which come from the New York State Education Department, show that in the 2018-2019 school year, New York City district and charter schools identified 114,085, or one in ten, students as homeless.  More than 34,000 students were living in New York City’s shelters, and more than twice that number (73,750) were living ‘doubled-up’ in temporary housing situations with relatives, friends, or others.

The number of NYC students identified as homeless has steadily increased by more than 70% over the last decade, despite this year’s scant decrease of half a percentage point from the 2017-2018 school year.  Overall, New York State schools identified 148,554 students as homeless during the 2018-2019 school year.

“This problem is immense.  The number of New York City students who experienced homelessness last year—85% of whom are Black or Hispanic—could fill the Barclays Center six times,” said Kim Sweet, AFC’s Executive Director. "The City won’t be able to break the cycle of homelessness until we address the dismal educational outcomes for students who are homeless.”

For these students, homelessness and educational outcomes are closely tied; fewer than a third of New York City students who are homeless are reading proficiently, rates that are 20 percentage points lower than their permanently housed peers.  Only 57 percent of all NYC students who are homeless graduate from high school. And, for NYC students living in shelters, the outcomes are even more stark—fewer than half graduate from high school.  National research from Chapin Hall’s Voice of Youth Count has shown that the lack of a high school diploma is the single greatest risk factor for homelessness among young adults, putting youth without a diploma at 4.5 times the risk of experiencing homelessness as adults compared to their peers who completed high school. 

Over the past few years, the City has taken some positive steps to directly support students who are homeless, including appointing new leaders to support this population, placing 100 “Bridging the Gap” social workers and more than 100 community coordinators in schools with high numbers of students who are homeless, offering yellow bus service to kindergarten through sixth grade students living in shelter, increasing pre-K enrollment among children living in shelter, and providing after-school reading programs at certain shelters.  

Still, nearly half of families entering shelter are placed in a different borough from where their youngest child attends school, and nearly two thirds of students living in shelter are chronically absent, helping to explain the poor educational outcomes.  

“We are heartened by the supports the City has added for students who are homeless, but now the harder work begins,” Sweet said. “With new leadership and school staff in place, the City must begin turning around educational outcomes for students who are homeless, starting with making sure students get to school every day.”

Download the complete data
View news release as a PDF 

09.27.2019 | AFC joined 25 child welfare and education organizations in sending a letter to Mayor de Blasio calling on the City to abide by federal and state law and honor its commitment to guarantee bus service or a comparable mode of transportation to kindergarten through sixth-grade students in foster care.  When students are placed in foster care, school can be an important source of stability.  However, 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.  Although the adopted city budget states that the Administration agreed to ensure bus service for students in foster care, the Department of Education is continuing to deny requests for bus service.

View letter as a PDF

09.24.2019 | AFC, on behalf of the Coalition for Multiple Pathways to a Diploma, testified before the City Council Committee on Education on high-stakes tests and the need for more ways to determine that students have mastered high school graduation standards. The State’s current graduation requirements create a barrier to post-secondary opportunity for students who are otherwise ready to graduate and move on to the next phase of their lives.

Read AFC's testimony [PDF]

08.19.2019 | The first day of school is Thursday, September 5! In preparation, we've updated our start-of-school question & answer fact sheet [PDF] for families of students with disabilities. The fact sheet (also available in Spanish [PDF]) covers common problems families face at the beginning of a new school year, from services not being in place to the school bus arriving late. 

Other AFC resources that may be helpful this time of year:

Please visit our resource library for many more guides and resources. If you have questions or need assistance, call AFC's Jill Chaifetz Education Helpline at (866) 427-6033, Monday—Thursday, 10am—4pm, to speak with an education specialist.

08.15.2019 | Every student in New York City has the right to attend public school, regardless of immigration status. Following recent immigration-related activities by the federal government, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) issued a letter [PDF] and flyer [PDF] to families reiterating this commitment. Both documents are available online in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu. The DOE has also provided additional guidance [PDF] for principals on responding to any requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for access to schools or student records. 

Families and school staff should know that: 

  • School staff cannot ask students or parents about immigration status. Even if a student or his/her parents are undocumented, the student still has the right to receive all school services, including special education supports and services. 
     
  • ICE officers are not permitted to enter schools, except when absolutely required by law (they must have a warrant signed by a judge in all but rare emergency circumstances). If an ICE officer goes to a school for immigration enforcement purposes, he/she must wait outside of the building while the principal consults with DOE lawyers. The full protocol is available in 10 languages on the DOE's website.
     
  • The DOE will not release information from student records to immigration officers unless absolutely required by law. Undocumented parents and students have all the same rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) as do other families. 
     
  • Families should update school records (the "Blue Card") to ensure that there is up-to-date contact information on file for trusted adults who can pick up a child from school, in the event that the primary parent/guardian is detained or deported.
     

It also is important to note that federal policy [PDF] currently limits immigration enforcement actions at sensitive locations, which include schools, hospitals, and places of worship.

A Q&A for families and links to additional resources are available on the DOE's website

Additional Resources

State Guidance
In 2017, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia released new guidance reminding school districts of their duty to uphold the rights of immigrant students as well as guidance on combatting harassment and discrimination. These documents have been translated into 20 languages (Arabic, Bengali, Burmese, Chinese, French, Fulani, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Karen, Khmer, Nepali, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Urdu, Uzbek, Vietnamese, and Wolof). 

AFC Publications

  • AFC’s Know Your Rights guidebook provides information on the rights of immigrant students and families in the New York City public schools; it’s available in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, English, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu [PDF]. See pages 20-21 of the guide for a list of organizations which provide free or low-cost immigration assistance. 
     
  • Advocates for Children also has a fact sheet on bullying, harassment, and discrimination based on race, national origin, immigration status, or religion. The fact sheet, which explains DOE policy and what parents can do if their children experience bullying or discrimination, is available in ArabicBengaliChineseEnglishFrenchHaitian CreoleRussianSpanish, and Urdu [PDF].

  • In May 2017, Advocates for Children, the Education Trust–New York, the New York Immigration Coalition, and the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families released a policy report, Safe Havens: Protecting and Supporting New York State’s Immigrant Students, which provides a roadmap for steps that New York State and district leaders should take to ensure that immigrant students and their families feel safe and supported by public schools.

Other Immigration-Related Resources

  • ActionNYC is a partnership between the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs and the City University of New York that offers free, safe immigration legal help. To make an appointment, call (800) 354-0365, Monday through Friday, 9am to 6pm, or call 311 and say "ActionNYC."  The New York City Council also has a webpage with resources for the City’s immigrant communities.

  • The Legal Aid Society has two fact sheets with information on advance planning in case of parental detention, deportation, or other immigration-related emergency. These fact sheets are available in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Haitian Creole, Hindi, Korean, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu. They also run an Immigration Hotline that families can call for assistance: (844) 955-3425, Monday through Thursday, 8am to 8pm.

  • Long Island Wins provides an explanation of how a non-citizen parent can designate a close relative or friend to make school and limited health care decisions for their children (called "Designation of a Person in Parental Relation").

  • The New York Immigration Coalition has compiled a list of resources for educators and school staff on supporting undocumented students and families, a Know Your Rights Community Toolkit (available in multiple languages), and a searchable directory of legal service providers.

  • In 2017, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Immigration Law Center, MALDEF, and the national teachers' unions presented a webinar on the educational rights of immigrant children in the United States. The slide deck, which includes links to additional resources, is available in both English [PDF] and Spanish [PDF].

07.30.2019 | Today, Advocates for Children and the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) jointly submitted comments to the New York City Department of Education on proposed changes to the New York City Discipline Code for the 2019-2020 school year. Read our comments [PDF]

05.23.2019 | Today, Advocates for Children is testifying before the City Council Committee on Finance on the importance of increasing funding for several education priorities, including school social workers, direct mental health support for students, and educational support for students who are homeless and students in foster care. The ARISE Coalition, which is coordinated by AFC, is also testifying in support of proposed investments in school accessibility and special education.

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

Spring 2019 | On March 20, 2019, we testified [PDF] before the City Council Committee on Education on the preliminary budget and the importance of increasing funding for school social workers, direct mental health support for students, educational support for students who are homeless and students in foster care, and preschool special education programs. Click on the links below to learn more about each of AFC's advocacy priorities for the fiscal year 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 2020 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.

On April 22, 2019, AFC joined 30 child welfare and education organizations in sending a letter to the Mayor [PDF] calling on him to increase support for students in foster care by including funding in the FY 2020 budget for these two initiatives.

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.

"A is for All" report coverfirst page of newsletter

A is for All: Meeting the Literacy Needs of Students with and without Disabilities in the New York City Public Schools [PDF]
In March 2016,  AFC released this report documenting the need for urgent and sustained action to address the particularly low literacy levels for low-income students with disabilities. The report discusses the key elements for teaching reading effectively to all students, reviews research and case stories indicating that students with a wide range of disabilities are capable of learning to read if they receive appropriate instruction, highlights a number of promising programs in New York City, and provides recommendations for implementing systemic and lasting change.

The Advocate: Special Edition on Literacy [PDF]
The Winter 2019 issue of AFC's newsletter for parents and professionals, The Advocate, is a special edition dedicated to literacy! Highlights include answers to frequently asked questions about reading instruction, phonics, and Orton-Gillingham; fact versus fiction when it comes to dyslexia; and much more. 

Reading Milestones: What your child should know and be able to do [PDF]
This fact sheet (adapted from the newsletter above) describes what your child should be learning during each of their first few years of school in order to become a successful reader. It also lists common warning signs of future difficulty or disability.

Literacy and Parent-Teacher Conferences [PDF]
This fact sheet provides suggestions for questions to ask your child’s teachers about how well they're learning to read and write. Also available in Spanish [PDF].

Questions & Answers about Literacy: A fact sheet for families of students who need more help learning to read and write [PDF]
This fact sheet answers frequently asked questions and explains how to get help if your child is struggling. Also available in SpanishFrench, and Arabic [PDF].

03.27.2019 | Advocates for Children signed on to an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Department of Commerce v. New York, challenging the proposed question on the 2020 census concerning citizenship status. The brief argues that including a citizenship question on the census will result in an undercount of immigrant communities. This undercount will result in the misallocation of education and community resource funding and harm students and their families. 

Read the amicus brief  [PDF
Read the news release [PDF]