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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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News & Media


11.01.2018 | Today, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement in response to the release of the New York City Department of Education’s proposed FY 2020-2024 Five-Year Capital Plan:

We called for a major investment in school accessibility, and this Administration listened.  The Mayor and Chancellor are proposing a substantial capital investment to make a third of schools in every district fully accessible to students, parents, and educators with physical disabilities over the next five years.

Nearly three decades since the passage of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, no student should be prevented from attending a school on account of accessibility concerns.  But currently:

  • Only 18.4% of the City’s schools are fully accessible
  • In 28 of the City’s 32 school districts, less than one-third of schools are fully accessible.
  • In seven districts, fewer than 10% of schools are fully accessible.
  • Three districts have no fully accessible elementary schools; four districts have no fully accessible middle schools; and six districts have no fully accessible high schools.

We thank the City Council, especially Speaker Johnson, Finance Committee Chair Dromm, and Education Committee Chair Treyger, for shining a light on the need for more accessible schools and working with Mayor de Blasio to increase the investment in accessible schools in the budget adopted in June.  We thank Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza for embracing the goal of making a third of schools in each district fully accessible and proposing the funding to make this goal a reality.

With fewer than 20% of NYC’s public schools now fully accessible, this commitment will literally open doors to inclusion and integration for people who are too often excluded.

View statement as a PDF

10.23.2018 | Today, AFC testified before the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Education regarding the current state of health, mental health, and physical education programs, services, and instruction in New York State’s schools. Our testimony discusses the need for the expansion of school-based mental health services and evidence-based approaches to student behavior. Read our testimony [PDF]

10.16.18 | Today, Advocates for Children is testifying before the City Council Committee on Education about the importance of improving the school transportation system, especially for students with disabilities, students in foster care, and students in temporary housing, and in support of a bill to provide real-time GPS bus location data to parents. Read our testimony [PDF

The ARISE Coalition, which is coordinated by AFC, is also testifying in support of the bill, highlighting some of the trends Coalition members have seen that make this system so problematic for individual families and their children with disabilities. Read ARISE's testimony [PDF]

10.15.2018 | 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 the number of students in New York City and New York State schools identified as homeless during the 2017-2018 school year. 

The data come from the New York State Education Department’s Student Information Repository System (SIRS) and show that during the 2017-2018 school year:

  • 152,839 students were identified as homeless by New York State school districts and charter schools, an increase of 4,624 students from the 2016-2017 school year.
  • 114,659 students were identified as homeless by New York City school districts and charter schools, an increase of 3,097 students from the 2016-2017 school year.
  • More than one in ten students in New York City schools was identified as homeless.
  • The number of New York City students identified as homeless increased by 66% since the 2010-2011 school year.

“The number of students who are homeless in New York City would fill Yankee Stadium twice,” said Kim Sweet, AFC’s Executive Director.  “While the City works to address the overwhelming problem of homelessness, it must take bold action to ensure that students who are homeless get an excellent education and do not get stuck in a cycle of poverty.”

map showing % of students in temp. housing in each school district

Over the past few years, the City has taken some positive steps to support students who are homeless, including 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.  Mayor de Blasio and the City Council also allocated funding for 69 Department of Education social workers to work in schools with high populations of students living in shelter during the 2018-2019 school year.  These “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 improve attendance.  However, 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.  In addition, for the past three years, the Mayor has funded the social workers for only one year at a time instead of providing long-term funding.  Most recently, Chancellor Carranza appointed LaShawn Robinson to the new position of Deputy Chancellor of School Climate and Wellness and tasked her with strengthening support for students who are homeless.

“We are pleased that Chancellor Carranza and Deputy Chancellor Robinson have identified addressing the needs of students who are homeless as a priority for this school year,” Sweet said.  “Given the persistent problem of student homelessness, the City must redouble its efforts, including providing long-term funding for social workers to help ensure that these students can get to school every day and receive the counseling and academic support they need to succeed.”

Read coverage by the New York Times
Download the complete data
View news release as a PDF 

first page of report10.10.2018 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York is releasing a new data brief entitled Access Denied: School Accessibility in New York City [PDF], which looks at the accessibility of New York City’s 1,800 public schools. The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires the City to provide equitable access to schools for students, families, and teachers with mobility, hearing, and vision needs. But nearly 30 years after the passage of the ADA, Access Denied finds that less than one in five of the City’s schools is categorized by the Department of Education (DOE) as “fully accessible.”  The report urges Mayor Bill de Blasio and the DOE to use the forthcoming Fiscal Year 2020-2024 Capital Plan to reach an ambitious and attainable goal—making a third of all schools fully accessible by 2024.

Read the report [PDF]
Read news release [PDF]

front page of the Daily News on Oct. 10, 2018Coverage by the New York Daily News:

09.27.2018 | Today, AFC sent a letter to Chancellor Carranza regarding start-of-school problems with busing. The letter shared a number of cases that are illustrative of what families, especially families of students with disabilities, routinely experience. Although the DOE has tended to treat busing as ancillary to its core mission of providing a quality education to the City’s students, we see over and over cases in which busing problems keep students from school altogether, make students miss critical academic time by arriving late/leaving early, or relegate students – some with very complicated special needs – to uncomfortable, extended periods of time on buses, often impacting their readiness to learn and leaving their parents fearful for their safety. Read the letter

09.26.2018 | In response to the release of the third through eighth grade English Language Arts (ELA) and Math test scores, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement:

“In reviewing the test scores for New York City students, we are concerned about the persistent gaps that exist for students with disabilities and English Language Learners (ELLs).  Teaching students to read is one of the most fundamental tasks of schools.  We are disappointed to see a 40 point gap in reading scores between students with disabilities and their nondisabled peers and a 40 point gap in reading scores between ELLs and students who were never ELLs.  With the vast majority of ELLs and students with disabilities failing to score proficiently in reading, the City must do more to support these students and ensure that they receive high-quality, evidence-based instruction that targets their individual needs.”

View statement as a PDF

09.20.2018 | AFC testified before the New York City Council Committee on Public Safety and Committee on Education regarding a proposal to establish a school emergency preparedness task force and a resolution calling for one guidance counselor and social worker for every 250 students and at least one guidance counselor and social worker per school. Read testimony [PDF]

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]