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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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06.23.2020 | Today, AFC released a policy brief summarizing the proposed cuts to education funding in the Mayor's FY21 Executive Budget and the devastating impact these cuts would have on schools and students. The brief urges Mayor de Blasio and the City Council to reject cuts to education and ensure schools have more resources—not less—to address the challenges caused by the pandemic. 

Read the brief  [PDF]

06.16.2020 | Today, Adovcates for Children  joined more than 80 organizations calling on the State to ensure that children do not lose Early Intervention services due to the difficulties getting preschool evaluations during the pandemic. The letter asks that the State extend Early Intervention services for three-year-old children who have been unable to receive preschool special education evaluations due to the pandemic, so these children will not abruptly lose all services at the end June.

Read the letter [PDF]

06.09.2020 | Today, Advocates for Children joined more than 80 other education, social service, and civil rights organizations in calling on the entire New York City Congressional delegation to invest $205B in public education in the next COVID response bill. 

As organizations working with children and families in New York City, we urge our Congressional representatives to ensure the next COVID respone bill includes supplemental funding for public education, including targeted allocations to support students with disabilities, English Language Learners/multilingual learners, and students experiencing homelessness. Our public schools are facing immense and unprecedented challenges as a result of COVID-19; without substantial federal support, the current crisis will have lifelong consequences for a generation of children whose education has been interrupted for reasons beyond their control.

Read the letter [PDF]

06.03.2020 | As an organization that advocates for racial justice, we are pained and outraged by the unconscionable killing of George Floyd by the Minnesota Police Department and the systemic racism that has taken the lives of so many members of the Black community.

Every day in our work, we see the many ways that systemic racism deeply affects the students and families that we exist to serve: for example, 93% of the students in emotional distress who are handcuffed by school-based police officers instead of receiving supportive mental health treatment are Black and Latinx. We see the impact of systemic racism on a regular basis, when we fight for individual students—young people who are growing up with the burden of knowing that the deck is often stacked against them—and in the policies we strive to change.

At Advocates for Children, we will continue to do our part to create a New York that is more just, and we stand by our community partners in calling for change to begin to dismantle the systemic racism that oppresses communities of color. We will continue to reach for our vision of a school system that provides all children with the instruction, support, and opportunity they need and that no longer leaves Black children behind.

We are grateful for your partnership and support in these difficult times.

In hope of a better future,

Kim

05.27.2020 | Today, AFC is testifying before the City Council Committee on Education about remote learning and the impact of COVID-19 on the City's schools, focusing on the challenges our clients have experienced and the need for the DOE to address the barriers students are facing so they can participate in remote summer school. Read our testimony [PDF]

05.21.2020 | Today, AFC is testifying before the New York City Council Committee on Finance about the importance of rejecting proposed cuts to schools and investing in education initiatives that will help students get needed support when they return to school, including funding for preschool special education classes, direct mental health support for students, guaranteed transportation for students in foster care, support for English Language Learners, and more. Read our testimony [PDF]

05.19.2020 | In response to a complaint filed by Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI), the United States Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and the New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE) have entered into a voluntary resolution agreement to ensure the provision and monitoring of translation and interpretation services to parents of New York City students with disabilities whose home language is not English. The agreement, signed in December 2019, came seven years after AFC and NYLPI filed the initial complaint with OCR concerning NYC DOE’s inadequate services.

The resolution agreement confirms the rights of Limited English Proficient (LEP) parents, under local, state and federal civil rights laws, to translation and interpretation services related to the special education services their children receive. In addition to acknowledging that LEP parents have a right to receive translations of special education documents – such as Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), Section 504 Plans and NYC DOE-funded evaluations – the resolution agreement is significant because it also states that the NYC DOE is responsible for informing families of their right to request these services, tracking translation and interpretation requests, and creating a centralized system for providing translated documents to families in all school districts in New York City. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the need for a centralized, effective system for providing and tracking translation and interpretation to parents of students with disabilities in the New York City public schools. Seven weeks after the closing of schools, there are LEP families and parents of English Language Learners (ELLs) who are still struggling to connect their children to remote learning and to special education services. Many of these families are not able to communicate with their schools unless the NYC DOE provides interpreters and translated materials. 

In response to AFC and NYPLI’s complaint, NYC DOE launched a pilot in 2018 for the centralized translation of IEPs, upon request by parents, in three of the City’s school districts. The resolution agreement states that this IEP translation pilot will inform the creation of a centralized system for all special education document translations. The IEP translation pilot remains in effect in Districts 9 and 24 and in special education District 75. 

“The agreement is not as strong as we had hoped, but it starts to move the school system in the right direction,” said Rita Rodriguez-Engberg, Director of AFC’s Immigrant Students’ Rights Project. “It’s important for parents to know that they currently have a right to translations of special education documents, and they can make the request through their children’s individual schools. In light of the COVID-19 school closures and the active role parents are playing in their children’s remote education, it is more important than ever for parents to understand their children’s IEPs and special education needs.”

"We are grateful that after years of neglect, the NYC DOE has finally committed to providing parents who are Limited English Proficient with access to the document translation and meeting interpretation necessary to meaningfully participate in their children's education,” said Ruth Lowenkron, Director of the Disability Justice Program at NYLPI. “We will vigilantly monitor the agreement to ensure that the NYC DOE honors its commitment, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic."

The full voluntary resolution agreement is available here.

View the press release [PDF]
View translated press release as a PDF: Arabic, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Spanish

05.13.2020 | Today, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement in response to Mayor de Blasio’s announcement about offers to New York City Pre-K programs:

While we are pleased that a record number of families received an offer to their first choice Pre-K program and that there are Pre-K seats left for families who did not yet apply, we are gravely concerned about preschoolers with disabilities who have a legal right to a preschool special education class but do not have one due to the City’s shortage.  Hundreds of preschoolers with disabilities were sitting at home prior to the pandemic and may have nowhere to go to school when buildings reopen.  The City’s plan for reopening schools must include ensuring there is a seat for every preschooler with a disability who needs one.

Read the statement [PDF]

Sixth Year Grads05.11.2020 | Today, more than 100 education and advocacy organizations and over five dozen parents and educators from across New York State sent a letter to the New York State Board of Regents and the State Education Department, urging them to give students who are aging out of school this year the opportunity to return to high school for the 2020-21 school year, rather than lose their chance to earn a high school diploma because of COVID-19.

While more than 95% of students who graduate high school in New York State do so in four years, a small subset of students needs five or six years to complete the requirements for a diploma. Last summer, approximately 2,700 students statewide—more than three-quarters of whom were Black or Latinx—graduated in their sixth year of high school. 

New York students who have not yet earned their diploma have the right to stay in school until the end of the school year in which they turn 21, and those who need this extra time to graduate have often overcome remarkable odds; they may be recently arrived immigrant youth who were learning English in addition to completing graduation requirements, students who dropped out for several years to work and help support their families, or students who spent time in foster care and changed schools frequently. The pandemic has now thrown their hard work into jeopardy. 

Many students across the State—through no fault of their own—have been unable to engage in remote learning and will not earn course credit this term. For overage 12th graders, the consequences will be dire: without an opportunity to finish their coursework when schools reopen, they will simply age out without a diploma, making it much more difficult for them to access post-secondary opportunities and jobs especially at a time of surging unemployment rates.

“Prior to this pandemic, our students were already facing obstacles - financial, health, caretaking - yet they still strive to earn their high school diploma. Now those challenges are magnified. We need to be flexible, to support these students to achieve their goals,” said Rachel Forsyth, who manages school programs focused on serving older students for Good Shepherd Services.

Michael Rothman, Executive Director of Eskolta School Research and Design, a nonprofit that partners with New York City Department of Education programs serving overage and under-credited students, said, “The pandemic has put into stark contrast the opportunities that some students have and others do not in our education system. Students who are overage in high school are disproportionately Black, Brown, and low-income and are more likely to be losing jobs, losing loved ones, and losing learning amidst the pandemic. To tell these students that they will not graduate because they hit the age limit in the midst of this difficult this time would only add to this inequity. This is one loss the State can do something about.” 

The groups are calling on the State to allow high school students to complete work from this school year at least until the end of summer 2021 and to allow students who are aging out of school in June 2020 to return for another year. 

“In light of the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic, the State needs to extend the age of eligibility and ensure schools have sufficient resources to give this relatively small but exceptional group of young people the last chance they need to earn a high school diploma,” said Ashley Grant, a Supervising Attorney at Advocates for Children of New York and Coordinator of the statewide Coalition for Multiple Pathways to a Diploma.

View the press release [PDF]
Read the letter [PDF]
View the data on last year’s sixth-year graduates [PDF]

04.17.2020 | Today, Advocates for Children joined 40 other organizations in calling on Mayor de Blasio to prioritize and fund necessary mental health services for all students. Along with our co-signers, AFC is concerned about the physical, mental, and economic toll COVID-19 is taking on our communities – including our students, educators, families, and schools. We recognize that the traumatizing impact on our students may be long lasting and all students, particularly those who had significant mental health challenges pre-dating the pandemic, will require mental health supports and services upon return to school sometime next year. 

We urge the Mayor to take a necessary next step in the administration’s increased efforts to develop and support innovative programs that serve individuals with the highest mental health needs by launching a program targeted to students with significant mental health needs who require a higher level of integrated services to succeed in school.

We call on the administration to include and baseline $15 million in the FY 2021 budget to launch and sustain a Mental Health Continuum to support the significant behavioral health needs of students in designated neighborhoods in high-need schools. Read the letter [PDF]