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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


cover of mayoral recommendations11.03.2021 | Mayor-elect Eric Adams will take office at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the longstanding inequities in our City’s schools. Based on our 50 years of on-the-ground experience helping students and families navigate the largest school system in the country and get the support they need to learn, we outline some of the most pressing challenges in public education — including those that pre-date COVID — where the incoming Mayor must be prepared to focus attention, energy, and resources.

Read the full recommendations [PDF]

We call on the next Mayor to lead the charge on some of the most pressing challenges in public education:

Effective literacy instruction and intervention.

Revamp literacy instruction and intervention so that every child becomes a skilled reader and NYC becomes a national model for literacy development.

Social-emotional & mental health supports for students and police-free schools.

Enhance mental health support and reimagine school safety in police-free and anti-racist schools.

Language access for families.

Increase access to translation and interpretation services and improve communication with families to ensure that every parent, including parents with limited English proficiency or low digital literacy, can participate in their child’s education.

Support for students with disabilities.

Develop a multi-year plan to address chronic shortages in the special education system and ensure all students with disabilities receive the individualized supports and services they need.

Support for English Language Learners.

Develop a multi-year plan to expand dual language and bilingual programs, create new programs to support older English Language Learners, and recruit more bilingual teachers and service providers.

Support for students experiencing homelessness & students in foster care.

Launch an interagency initiative to tackle educational barriers for students who are homeless and move forward with recent plans to hire dedicated DOE staff to address the unique needs of students in foster care.

Promote school integration and improve equity in admissions.

Address barriers to admissions for students from historically marginalized communities and build inclusive, supportive, and effective school environments where all students can thrive. 

10.27.2021 | Today, AFC is testifying before the City Council Committee on Education on the continued work needed to strengthen the DOE’s academic recovery plans this year. While we appreciate that the City is using this funding for some important initiatives, we worry there is still inadequate detail about how the funding will be used, inadequate funding for key priorities, and too much discretion and responsibility left to individual schools that already have their hands full reopening schools and keeping school communities safe. 

Read our testimony [PDF]

10.27.2021 | Today, AFC submitted written testimony to the City Council Committee on General Welfare in strong support of Intro. 1829-2019, which would preclude the Department of Homeless Services from requiring parents to bring their children to shelter intake appointments and help ensure students do not have to miss school when their families apply for shelter.

Read our testimony [PDF]

first page of policy brief10.18.2021 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) released a new policy brief documenting the pandemic’s heavy toll on school attendance for students living in homeless shelters and calling on the New York City Department of Education (DOE) to direct federal COVID-19 relief dollars to overhaul the education support system in shelters, starting with hiring 150 shelter-based DOE community coordinators. 

The brief, which examines monthly attendance data released by the DOE pursuant to Local Law 10 of 2021, shows that students in shelter had significantly more difficulty accessing an education than their permanently housed peers during winter and spring 2021. Between January and June, overall monthly attendance rates for students in shelter were lower than those for any other student group and trailed attendance rates for students in permanent housing by 10.6 to 14.1 percentage points, depending on the month. While the lack of internet access in some City shelters undoubtedly had an impact on remote attendance, the attendance rate for students living in shelter who opted for blended learning (some days in school and some remote) was just 2.3 to 4.3 percentage points higher on their in-person days than on their days of remote learning. 

There were especially high rates of absenteeism at the high school level: 10th graders living in shelter missed more than one out of every three school days in winter and spring 2021, while 9th, 11th, and 12th graders in shelter were absent more than 25% of the time.

While the attendance rates of students in shelter during the pandemic were particularly troubling, barriers to consistent attendance are not new.  In both 2018-19 and 2019-20, more than half of students living in shelter—94% of whom are Black or Hispanic—were chronically absent, missing at least one out of every ten school days. 

Unfortunately, this trend has continued into the start of this school year; the average attendance rate of students in shelter during the first couple of weeks of school was only 73%. 

“Children get one shot at a quality education, and every day a student is absent is a day of instruction they can never get back,” said Jennifer Pringle, Director of AFC’s Learners in Temporary Housing Project. “These alarmingly low attendance rates make clear that the DOE’s current shelter-based support system is not sufficient. There need to be dedicated, well-trained staff on the ground in the City’s shelters who can help students reconnect with school and access the educational supports they need to get back on track.” 

At present, there are not enough staff working in shelters who have the skills and knowledge necessary to help families navigate the school system, address barriers to attendance, and resolve educational problems: just 117 shelter-based DOE Family Assistants are tasked with supporting the roughly 30,000 students who spend time in shelter each year. The number of Family Assistants has not grown over the past decade even though thousands more students are now spending time in the shelter system than in years past. As there are more than twice as many shelters as there are Family Assistants, these staff must divide their time among multiple shelter sites and are stretched very thin. The Family Assistant position is also very low paid ($28,000 for 10 months), making it difficult to recruit and retain qualified staff for the role. 

Fortunately, New York City is poised to receive tens of millions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funding specifically to address the needs of students experiencing homelessness—and the City has not yet decided how to allocate these funds. AFC, in partnership with 25 organizations, is recommending that the DOE use this funding to hire 150 new community coordinators to work on the ground in the City’s shelters and help students get to school every day. 

These coordinators would proactively assist families with getting school placements, bus service, and special education services in place as quickly as possible upon entering shelter and for the start of each school year; ensure that students are attending school regularly and help address barriers when students are not getting to school; and connect students to after-school programs, tutoring, counseling, and other supports. 

“New York City has long struggled to meet the needs of students living in shelter, and the pandemic has only exacerbated the many challenges these young people face,” said Pringle. “The good news is that the City now has funding to hire a new team of professionals who can help students succeed in school and break the cycle of homelessness.” 

Read the data brief [PDF]
View the news release as a PDF

10.05.2021 | Today, AFC is testifying before the New York State Senate Education Committee on the DOE’s use of increased state and federal education funding; specifically, how the funding is being used to meet the needs of students with disabilities, English Language Learners, and students experiencing homelessness—students who were hit particularly hard by the closure of schools. 

Read our testimony [PDF]

09.27.2021 | Today, AFC is testifying before the City Council Committee on Public Safety, joining the call from students, parents, and educators for police-free schools and urging the City to eliminate the reliance on the New York City Police Department to address the needs of students in our schools. The City must invest sufficient resources to create a comprehensive, multi-tiered system of mental health and social-emotional supports and services that ensures every school can effectively meet students’ needs with a trauma-informed approach, including by investing in staff trained and coached in providing direct services to students.

Read our testimony [PDF]

09.01.2021 | Today, AFC testified before the New York City Council Committee on Education on the City's plan to hire 250 new School Safety Agents (“SSAs”), rather than invest in the social-emotional and mental health supports our students need so profoundly at this point in time. As students return to school buildings to learn in person, it is more critical than ever that the DOE provide students with safe, supportive, healing-centered school environments that have comprehensive mental health and social-emotional support that promotes well-being and equity for all students and school staff. 

Read our testimony [PDF]

08.09.2021 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York is joined more than 100 organizations in sending a letter urging the Governor to sign into law A. 8013 (Benedetto) / S. 6516-A (Mannion), a bill passed unanimously by the Senate and Assembly to ensure that preschool special education programs, as well as state-approved non-public schools for school-age students with significant disabilities, receive the same increase in payment rates as school districts. Read the letter [PDF]

06.25.2021 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York joined 25 organizations to urge the DOE to hire 150 shelter-based Community Coordinators to help students living in shelter reconnect with school and participate in supplemental programming offered by the DOE.  With the DOE poised to receive tens of millions of dollars in COVID-19 federal relief funding specifically allocated to support students experiencing homelessness, the DOE has an opportunity to have a new corps of qualified, trained professionals on the ground in the City’s shelters who can listen to concerns of families, help them navigate the DOE’s complex school system, address barriers to school attendance, and support them on issues ranging from transportation to enrollment and technology to special education. Read the letter [PDF]


06.23.2021 | Today, AFC joined 90+ organizations to call on Mayor de Blasio to address the shortage of preschool special education classes and provide salary parity to teachers of preschool special education classes at community-based organizations (CBOs) this year. Pre-K will never be “for all” until the City ensures a preschool special education class seat for every child who needs one. Recently released data show that, as of the end of the 2019-2020 school year, 1,215 New York City preschoolers were waiting for seats in legally mandated preschool special education classes in violation of their legal rights. Read the letter [PDF]