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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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09.12.2018 | Today, members of the ARISE Coalition (which is coordinated by AFC) and Parents for Inclusive Education (PIE) sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio asking that the City include a major investment in the FY 2020-2024 School Construction Authority Five-Year Capital Plan to make at least one-third of schools accessible to students, parents, and teachers with physical disabilities. Currently, only one out of every five City schools is fully accessible; as a result, students with physical disabilities find themselves automatically shut out of the majority of schools because of architectural barriers. 

We estimate that reaching this target would require an additional $750 million over five years. While we would like to see the school system fully accessible to individuals with physical disabilities, this funding would go a long way toward integrating students with physical needs into NYC’s schools and would have a significant impact on their lives.

Read the letter [PDF]

08.29.2018 | Yesterday, the federal district court for the Southern District of New York issued a decision allowing a lawsuit filed by AFC and Greenberg Traurig, LLP to proceed. The lawsuit alleged systemic failure on the part of the NYC Department of Education to provide services, including nurses, to students with medical needs who require such services to attend school.

The DOE had moved to dismiss the case, but the Court denied the motion, finding the complaint sufficiently alleged that the DOE’s failure to provide needed services to the three plaintiffs was based on a systemic breakdown in the DOE’s practices, policies, and procedures governing the services it must provide to medically fragile children.  Referring to the DOE’s process for approving school nurses as “Kafkaesque,” the decision states: “Instead of alleviating the burdens borne by disabled students and their families, the current policies spawn a cumbersome and counterintuitive bureaucracy that undermines the goal of educating these children.”

View the decision [PDF]
View the full news release [PDF]

08.21.2018 | The first day of school is Wednesday, September 5! In preparation, we've updated our back-to-school fact sheet for families of students with disabilities, which answers frequently asked questions, such as what to do if a child does not yet have a school assignment or the school assigned says they cannot serve the child’s needs. View the fact sheet in English [PDF] and Spanish [PDF]. 

If you have additional questions or need assistance, please call AFC’s Education Helpline: (866) 427-6033, Monday—Thursday, 10am—4pm.

08.17.2018 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York submitted comments to the New York State Education Department on proposed amendments to the regulations regarding New York’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) accountability system. Our comments discuss the proposed definition of “out-of-school suspension rate” as well as the State's method for calculating chronic absenteeism. Read comments [PDF]

06.27.2018 | Today, AFC testified before the City Council Committee on Education and Committee on General Welfare about how 3-K, Pre-K, and EarlyLearn can better serve students who are homeless, Dual Language Learners, and students with disabilities. Read our testimony [PDF], as well as testimony from an AFC client [PDF] whose four-year-old son has been waiting months for a seat in a preschool special education class due to the DOE’s shortage.

06.14.2018 | Today, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement in response to the New York City Council’s vote to adopt the Fiscal Year 2019 city budget: 

School Accessibility: We thank the Mayor and the City Council for including in the budget an additional $150 million over three years to make more schools accessible to students, parents, and teachers with mobility, hearing, or vision needs.  For too long, the City has tolerated a system where students who use wheelchairs or otherwise need accessible buildings are effectively barred from most schools.  No child should be turned away from school because they can’t get into the building.  The funding for school accessibility in this year’s budget is an important move forward. 

Support for Students who are Homeless: We thank the City Council for adding $2 million to fund approximately 20 additional Bridging the Gap school social workers for students living in shelters.  Along with the 10 additional social workers that the Mayor included in his Executive Budget in April, this investment means the City will move from 43 Bridging the Gap social workers to approximately 73.  While the budget does not go as far as we had hoped, this investment will make a big difference in the ability of 30 additional schools to meet the needs of students living in shelters.

View statement as a PDF

06.06.2018 | On March 23, AFC testified before the New York City Council Committee on Education regarding the Fiscal Year 2019 Preliminary Budget. On May 24, we testified before the City Council Committee on Finance regarding the Executive Budget. Read our full March [PDF] and May [PDF] testimonies, and click on the links below to learn more about each of AFC's advocacy priorities. 

Support for students who are homeless [PDF
In 2016-17, a record 104,088 New York City students were identified as homeless, yet the FY19 Preliminary Budget would eliminate funding for DOE social workers and other supports for students living in shelters. The final budget must restore and baseline last year's funding to continue these initiatives, and add an additional $20 million to increase the number of DOE social workers dedicated to supporting students who are homeless, provide support to schools through the Field Support Centers, and establish high-level DOE leadership focused on this population.

Along with fifteen leading child advocacy, education, and housing organizations, AFC 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. AFC and Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York have also issued Recommendations for Improving School Access and Success for Rising Numbers of Students in Temporary Housing [PDF]. 

On April 16, 30 New York City Council Members and the Council's Progressive Caucus called on the Mayor to increase funding for students who are homeless, sending a letter to City Hall [PDF] in support of these proposals.

On June 4, 16 organizations sent a second letter to Mayor de Blasio [PDF] calling on him to invest more resources to support students who are homeless, including by increasing the number of Bridging the Gap school social workers who serve students living in shelter from the 53 social workers proposed in the Executive Budget to 100 social workers. 

Busing for K-6 students in foster care [PDF
Three out of 10 students have to change schools upon their initial placement in foster care in New York City, often because they have no way to get to their original schools. The FY19 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.

On June 4, 27 organizations sent a letter [PDF] to Mayor de Blasio calling on him to invest more resources to support students in foster care, including by extending bus service to students in foster care so they are not forced to transfer schools.

Investments in evidence-based practices to improve school climate [PDF
We urge the City to include $2.8 million per year to launch and sustain a mental health support continuum pilot to help ensure that students in 20 high-needs schools have access to direct mental health services when needed, as well as an additional $1 million per year to implement whole-school Collaborative Problem Solving in 25 high-needs schools.

Increased funding to improve school accessibility [PDF
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. AFC recommends the City dedicate an additional $125 million towards making 15-17 additional schools fully accessible and improving the accessibility of additional schools through minor renovation projects. 

On March 26, we testified before the New York City Council Committee on Education regarding this proposal. Read our testimony [PDF].

first page of report05.24.2018 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York issued a new publication entitled Gaps in Social Workers for Students Living in Shelters [PDF], documenting the number of New York City schools with high concentrations of students living in shelters that do not have a social worker to serve these students. 

During the 2016-2017 school year, 38,000 New York City students lived in shelters.  The City has taken a positive step by placing 43 “Bridging the Gap” social workers in schools with high populations of students living in shelters to focus on serving this population.  These social workers have provided counseling to students, connected them to academic support and mental health services, and worked to improve attendance. 

Despite a push by elected officials and advocates to expand this program significantly, Mayor de Blasio’s Executive Budget proposal would add only 10 Bridging the Gap social workers, for a total of 53 social workers citywide. AFC’s analysis shows that this proposed modest increase falls far short of meeting the need.  

While schools cannot end the homelessness crisis, they can help students living in shelter overcome obstacles and succeed in school, but only if they have sufficient support.  The City should double the number of school social workers focused on serving students living in shelters.

View the press release [PDF
Read the report [PDF]

05.24.2018 | Today, AFC is testifying before the City Council Committee on Finance on the importance of increasing funding for several education priorities, including school social workers for students living in shelter, school accessibility for students with physical disabilities, and evidence-based practices to improve school climate. Read our testimony [PDF]. 

The ARISE Coalition, which is coordinated by AFC, is also testifying, urging the Council to negotiate a final budget that includes additional funding for school accessibility. Read ARISE's testimony [PDF].

05.21.2018 | On May 15, members of the ARISE Coalition, which is coordinated by AFC, and Parents for Inclusive Education (PIE) wrote to Mayor de Blasio and the New York City Council, urging them to ensure that the final FY 2019 budget includes the City Council’s recommendation for an additional $125 million for school accessibility projects. 

The 2015-2019 Capital Plan allocates only $100 million over five years for improving school accessibility and $28 million for ensuring that a number of schools can serve as accessible emergency shelters. Together, that represents less than one percent of the total funding in the Plan. Furthermore, the City has already spent the vast majority of this funding, leaving little, if any, funding for accessibility projects in the coming year. New York City cannot be the "fairest big city in America" until students, families, and teachers with physical disabilities have equitable access to the City’s schools.

Read the letters [PDF].