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thumbnail image of first page of call to action01.19.2023 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) released Sustaining Progress for NYC Students: A Call to Action for Policy Makers, highlighting the need for sustained investments to support education initiatives funded with one-time federal COVID-19 stimulus dollars after that funding expires.

Over the last two years, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) received an unprecedented infusion of more than $7 billion in federal stimulus funding, allowing the City to fund a number of critical education priorities. While some of this funding has been used for short-term expenses directly stemming from the pandemic -- such as costs associated with reopening school buildings and accounting for the impact of lost instructional time -- the DOE is also using these stimulus dollars to address student needs that existed long before the pandemic, many of which have historically been underfunded. Although the federal COVID-19 relief funds will run dry in October 2024, these ongoing needs will remain. Among other things, stimulus funding is currently being used to:

  • Double 3-K enrollment and open new preschool special education classes to help address a longstanding shortage of seats for preschoolers with disabilities;
  • Increase the number of community schools and expand access to summer enrichment programming;
  • Hire 500 new school social workers, expand restorative justice practices, and enable every school building to have a nurse;
  • Bolster supports for students with dyslexia, students with intensive sensory needs, and students living in homeless shelters; and
  • Open new bilingual programs for English Language Learners and improve access to translation and interpretation services for immigrant families.

It will take more than $700 million per year to sustain new and expanded education initiatives that are making a difference for some of the City’s most marginalized students, and Advocates for Children of New York calls on elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels to start planning right away to identify funding to address this looming threat.

“We can’t turn back on the progress made,” said Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York. “Our school system is all too quickly approaching a steep fiscal cliff, and we need our elected leaders to start planning now so that in fall of 2024, schools are not forced to excess social workers and other critical staff and students who rely on these programs do not have the rug pulled out from under them. New York City students are counting on policy makers at the city, state, and federal levels to work together to ensure our schools have the resources they need to avoid taking a massive step backwards in the instruction and services they provide.”

Read the call to action
View the press release as a PDF

01.19.2023 | Our newest tip sheet covers how to know whether your child needs behavior supports in the classroom; who to contact if your child is having behavioral, emotional, or mental health challenges at school; your rights as a parent of a student with a disability; and what your child's school is NOT allowed to do, along with resources to help you get the support you need.

Read the tip sheet [PDF]
See more school discipline resources

01.12.2023 | Today, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement in response to the release of the City’s Fiscal Year 2024 preliminary budget: 

We are relieved that the City is not moving forward with certain planned cuts to school budgets next year at a time when students still need intensive academic and social-emotional support. 

However, we are deeply concerned that the Mayor’s Preliminary Budget does not extend funding for a number of initiatives that provide critical support to students and families. The Administration launched these initiatives with city funding that will expire in June, unless extended. 

  • Mental Health Continuum ($5M): This innovative model, recently highlighted in the NYC Speaks Action Plan, is the first-ever cross-agency partnership (DOE, H+H, DOHMH) to help students with significant mental health needs access expedited mental healthcare in person and via video. It supports students at 50 high-needs schools through school partnerships with H+H mental health clinics, adding dedicated staff to provide students with timely access to mental health services, NYC Well hotline to advise school staff with mental health inquiries, Children’s Mobile Crisis Teams to respond to students in crisis, school-based mental health clinicians, Collaborative Problem Solving training to build school staff capacity to better manage student behavior, and culturally-responsive family engagement. At a time when we have a youth mental health crisis, this model is urgently needed.

  • Multi-Faceted Immigrant Family Communication and Outreach ($4M): This initiative helps the DOE to better communicate with immigrant families through approaches such as using local ethnic media to share updates from the DOE, sending paper notices to families’ homes, reaching families over telephone and text message, and collaborating with immigrant-facing community-based organizations to create and launch information campaigns. Given that more than 329,000 public school students do not have a parent who speaks English fluently and more than 61,000 children of Limited English Proficient parents live in households without broadband internet access, it is critical for this initiative to continue.

  • Shelter-Based Community Coordinators ($3.3M): Twenty-five of the 100 shelter-based community coordinators the DOE committed to hiring are funded with city funding. With more than 60% of students in shelter chronically absent, these coordinators, who are just beginning their work, can play an important role in helping students in shelter get to school every day and access needed educational support. At a time when the number of students living in shelter has grown and low attendance is a top concern, it is important to ensure the continuity of this new program.

  • Early Childhood Education and Care for Children who are Undocumented ($10M): No child should be turned away from an early childhood education program due to their immigration status. The City should continue to be a leader in providing early learning opportunities to children, including those who are undocumented, by extending funding for Promise NYC.

With the youth mental health crisis and the recent influx of newly arrived students living in shelter, this is not the time to jeopardize funding for coordinators to help students in shelter, mental health services for students, communication efforts to reach immigrant families, and early childhood education for undocumented children.

As the budget process moves forward, the City should avoid further cuts to education and invest in areas such as reading instruction and intervention and restorative justice practices. Particularly at a time when the City continues to have unspent federal COVID-19 relief funding, schools should receive additional resources to meet these needs and certainly should not lose funding.

View the press release as a PDF

12.20.2022 | Today, AFC is testifying before the New York City Council about the need to better support immigrant students and families amidst the recent influx of migrant families, including by increasing access to bilingual staff and programs, ensuring students get needed special education services, bolstering Transfer High School programs for older immigrant youth, and improving language access and communication with families. Read our testimony [PDF]

11.21.2022 | Today, AFC is testifying before the New York City Council Committee on Oversight and Investigation and the Committee on Education regarding persistent, long-standing issues with NYC school bus transportation services. The DOE must take action to develop the systems and procedures necessary to run an effective transportation system that gets all students to school every day. Read our testimony [PDF]

11.16.2022 | Today, AFC is testifying before the New York City Council Committee on Education about the need for the DOE to address delays in launching key programs funded by federal COVID-19 relief funds and for city, state, and federal elected leaders to begin planning to sustain long-overdue initiatives funded with this short-term funding. Read our testimony [PDF]

11.09.2022 | Today, AFC testified before the New York City Council Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities & Addiction and Committee on Youth Services to discuss the youth mental health crisis and urgent need for a comprehensive system to ensure that our young people have access to and receive behavioral and mental health supports in schools. Read our testimony

10.25.2022 | Today,  AFC testified before the City Council Committee on Youth Services about the need to ensure that the City’s summer programming provides needed support for all students, including students with disabilities, English Language Learners, and students who are homeless. Read our testimony

10.19.2022 | Today, AFC testified before the City Council Committee on Education regarding our concern about the 800 preschoolers with significant disabilities who were waiting for seats in their legally mandated preschool special education classes as of June 2022. Read our testimony

09.21.2022 | Today, AFC is testifying before the City Council Committee on Education about the serious obstacles that students with disabilities and their families continue to experience every day on the ground. Every day, Advocates for Children hears from parents struggling to get their children with disabilities the education they need. Read our testimony [PDF]