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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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07.08.2022 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) joined more than 30 organizations to call on the City to honor its commitment to fully staff a DOE team dedicated to meeting the unique educational needs of students in foster care, and to meet its obligation under law to provide busing for this population. The City has the chance to reverse decades of underservice and make support for students in foster care a top priority. The educational needs of students in foster care raise issues of justice and equity that cannot continue to be overlooked. Read the letter [PDF]

06.24.2022 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York is testifying before the City Council Committee on Education and Committee on Oversight and Investigations regarding our deep concerns about school budget cuts. Read our testimony [PDF]

first page of data brief06.09.2022 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) released a new data analysis, More than Translation: Multi-Faceted Solutions for Communicating with NYC’s Immigrant Families, estimating that more than 329,000 public school students do not have a parent who speaks English fluently and calling on Mayor Adams and the City Council to invest $6 million in the FY 2023 budget to establish a permanent, central system for immigrant family communications at the Department of Education (DOE). While the FY 2022 budget included $4 million in one-year funding for targeted outreach and communication to immigrant families, Mayor Adams did not extend it in his Executive Budget; unless the Mayor and Council take action to include it in the adopted budget, set to be finalized as soon as this week, it will expire at the end of June.

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS), the analysis illustrates the need for multi-faceted approaches to communication that go beyond making translated documents available online. For example:

  • An estimated 55,585 students’ parents have no more than an 8th grade education in addition to not being proficient in English. This potentially limits their ability to read and understand translated materials from the DOE explaining complex processes, systems, and regulations—documents that can often be confusing even for native English speakers with college degrees.

  • An estimated 61,657 children of Limited English Proficient (LEP) parents live in households without broadband internet access, meaning that information communicated to families online or via email is unlikely to reach them in a timely manner, if at all.

  • An estimated 29,608 students’ parents have limited English proficiency and communicate in a language outside of the top nine (Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu) into which DOE documents are routinely translated.

 
“Our on-the-ground experience working with families has shown us that many parents never receive critical information when it is only available via translated documents posted online,” said Diana Aragundi, staff attorney at AFC. “For example, we have worked with immigrant parents who primarily speak languages like Nahuatl or Mixtec and so are forced to rely on their second language, Spanish, in order to communicate with their children’s schools, even though they have limited literacy in Spanish.”

“My child’s school sends me information by email. I don’t know how to use email that well. And the emails are always in English, even though the school knows I do not speak English. I have to ask my children for help to understand what the email says” said Florentina, a Spanish-speaking parent of 10- year-old in a Bronx school.

Ensuring that immigrant parents get needed information and can play a meaningful role in their children’s education requires multi-faceted approaches that take into account their varying levels of literacy and access to digital media. The DOE has been meeting with a work group to determine the most effective uses for the $4 million it received last year, including 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 (CBOs) to create and launch information campaigns. This important work requires funding to continue.

“We work with so many immigrant families who have felt sidelined in their child’s education or who have been left in the dark because no one from the DOE, including their children’s schools, tried to communicate with them in a way they could actually understand,” said Rita Rodriguez-Engberg, director of AFC’s Immigrant Students’ Rights Project. “If the new administration is serious about its desire to empower parents as true partners, then the City should be increasing—and certainly not cutting—the multi-faceted immigrant family communication and outreach initiative. ”

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

06.06.2022 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) joined more than 200 organizations and individuals in calling on Mayor Adams to invest $5 million to continue the Mental Health Continuum, an innovative, evidence-based model for supporting students with significant mental health needs by integrating a range of direct services and developing stronger partnerships between schools and hospital-based mental health clinics. 

The Mental Health Continuum represents the first-ever cross-agency collaboration to help students with significant mental health challenges access direct mental health services in school and connect students to other services throughout the City. This model prioritizes wellness through school partnerships with hospital-based mental health clinics; NYC Well hotline expansion to advise school staff; child mobile response teams to respond to students in crisis; direct mental health services; School-Based Mental Health staff; Collaborative Problem Solving training, an evidence-based approach to building school staff capacity to better manage student behavior; and family engagement. The model is currently launching in 50 high-needs schools in the South Bronx and Central Brooklyn.

In FY 22, the City allocated $5 million for the Mental Health Continuum for only one year so, unless extended in the adopted budget, the funding for this critical initiative will expire in June 2022 — just when it is getting off the ground in schools that are relying on it.  

Read the letter [PDF]

04.29.2022 |  More than 30 organizations released a letter calling on Mayor Adams and Chancellor Banks to use federal COVID-19 relief funding specifically designated for students in temporary housing to hire 150 shelter-based Department of Education Community Coordinators. Community Coordinators can provide crucial supports for students in shelter, helping students get to school every day and connecting them with the supports and services they need to be successful in school.

With 60% of students living in shelter chronically absent from school, it is important to have someone on the ground in the shelter who can partner directly with families, determine why a particular child is missing school, and resolve the problem. The DOE is getting American Rescue Plan-Homeless Children and Youth (ARP-HCY) funds specifically to support students in temporary housing. The DOE submitted a plan to use part of its funding to hire 50 shelter-based community coordinators, but 50 is not nearly enough to serve the 28,000 students who spend time in shelters each year. The DOE must submit a plan in the next month for its remaining $24 million in ARP-HCY funding. The groups are urging the City to use this opportunity to tackle chronic absenteeism for students living in shelter and create lasting change by providing families and students with support where it’s needed most.

Read the letter [PDF]
View the news release as a PDF

04.20.2022 | Today, AFC is testifying before the City Council Committee on Education regarding the educational needs of students in foster care.  We are urging the City to fully staff a small DOE team focused on students in foster care and guarantee bus service so students don’t have to transfer schools when placed in foster care. Read our testimony [PDF]

Winter 2022 | Click on the links below to learn more about each of AFC's advocacy priorities [PDF] for the Fiscal Year 2023 City budget. 

Ensure Every Student Learns to Read [PDF
One of the most fundamental responsibilities of schools is to teach children how to read. Yet far too many New York City students struggle to become skilled readers: less than half of all students in grades 3–8, and only 36% of Black and Hispanic students and 16% of students with disabilities, are reading proficiently, according to the 2019 state exams. The City should invest $125 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding in FY 2023 to provide one-on-one or small group evidence-based reading intervention to students who need this support to become skilled readers.

Support English Language Learners and Immigrant Families [PDF]
The nearly 139,000 English Language Learners (ELLs) in New York City public schools require targeted language and academic instruction to meet their unique needs. The City should launch programs at existing DOE transfer schools in Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx to increase those schools’ capacity to serve recently arrived, immigrant ELLs ages 16-21 ($2M), and establish the position of ELL Instructional Specialist at schools with a high number of underperforming ELLs to ensure they receive appropriate instruction and support ($12M).

In addition, with most of the DOE’s family-facing communication currently happening online and via email, many immigrant parents are left in the dark and without access to information to participate in their children's education. The DOE should establish a permanent, central system of immigrant family communications that takes into account families’ varying levels of literacy and access to digital media ($6M).

Address the Shortage of Preschool Special Education Classes [PDF]
We have been deeply concerned about the number of preschoolers who have had to wait for the DOE to provide them with the preschool special education classes to which they are entitled—even as the City has expanded 3-K and Pre-K for All. The FY 2023 budget should add $30 million for the City to provide preschool special education teachers and staff at community-based organizations (CBOs) with salaries on par with their 12-month DOE counterparts, so that the City can open classes to provide a preschool special education class for every child who needs one.

Guarantee Bus Service for Students in Foster Care & Staff the DOE Foster Care Team [PDF]
More than 7,000 children are in foster care in New York City. When students are removed from their homes and families and placed into foster care, school is often the only source of stability in their lives. No student in care should be forced to change schools due to lack of transportation. The FY 2023 budget should include $5 million to guarantee bus service or a comparable mode of door-to-door transportation to students in foster care who need it to stay in their original schools.

Last fall, the City announced a first-ever team at the Department of Education devoted to meeting the unique needs of students in foster care. But with the City’s hiring freeze, this promise, and critical support for these students, remains on hold. To date, only two of the eleven positions have been posted, and none have been filled—meaning there is still not a single staff member at the DOE focused solely on students in foster care. We urge the City to lift the freeze on all DOE foster care team positions and move forward with hiring leadership and staff to work across agencies, develop policies that better serve students in care, and tackle the barriers that limit students’ educational success. 

Support Students and Families in Shelter [PDF]
The 28,000 students who spend time in shelter each year—94% of whom are Black or Latinx—face significant barriers to educational success. Currently, however, there are not enough staff working on the ground in shelters who have the skills and knowledge necessary to help families navigate the school system, address barriers to attendance, and resolve educational problems. The DOE recently received over $9 million in American Rescue Plan funding specifically to support students who are homeless and is poised to receive another $20+ million in the coming months, but has not yet decided how to spend this funding. To ensure students who are homeless can access a high-quality education, the budget should include $18 million to add least 150 shelter-based DOE Students in Temporary Housing Community Coordinators.

Fund a Comprehensive Integrated System of Behavioral and Mental Health Supports for Students [PDF]
The past two years have presented unprecedented challenges that have uniquely impacted the mental health and wellbeing of our students. However, too often when students are struggling, they are met with exclusionary school discipline and policing practices that only further traumatize them and perpetuate the school-to-prison pipeline, disproportionately harming Black and Brown students and students with disabilities. The City should fund a comprehensive integrated system of behavioral and mental health supports for students, including: baselining $5 million for the Mental Health Continuum, a model for integrating a range of direct services to students with significant mental health needs in high-needs schools partnered with hospital-based clinics; doubling the number of school-based mental health clinics; funding the Citywide expansion and implementation of school-wide restorative justice practices ($118M in FY 2023); and expanding inclusive school programs for students with emotional, behavioral, or mental health disabilities.

03.21.2022 | Today, AFC is testifying before the City Council Committee on Education regarding the FY 23 preliminary education budget, urging the City to reject proposed cuts to education, including the DOE hiring freeze, and invest in initiatives to support the students with the greatest needs. 

Read our testimony [PDF]

03.09.2022 | Many students with disabilities had a difficult time making progress in school during the pandemic, and need extra supports and services to get back on track. AFC's newest tip sheet covers the individualized Special Education Recovery Services (“SERS”) the NYC Department of Education is offering for students with IEPs who attend NYC DOE schools, including: the types of services available; when services are offered; and what to do if you don’t agree with the services your child is offered.

Read the tip sheet [PDF]
See more special education resources

03.08.2022 | Today, as part of AFC's ongoing litigation on behalf of students with disabilities who have not received an appropriate education during remote learning, the court issued an order extending the time for families to file impartial hearing requests for claims for compensatory services.  The order gives parents until November 3, 2022, to file claims for compensatory services for the denial of appropriate services during remote learning.

Learn more about the case, Z.Q. v. NYC Department of Education
Read the court order [PDF]