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Cheick, an immigrant student from Mali, was told—illegally—that he had to leave high school and transfer to a high school equivalency program.

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Press Releases

04.25.2019 | Today, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement in response to the release of the City’s Fiscal Year 2020 Executive Budget: 

We are pleased that the City is investing an additional $33 million to help support students with disabilities, including by hiring more school psychologists, creating additional programs for students in the early grades, and increasing the number of preschool special education class seats. We hear from families every day who are struggling to get the services their children need. We fully support the goal of creating more programs in public schools that will meet the needs of students with disabilities, including students with autism and students struggling to learn to read. We look forward to learning the details. 

Before the budget process concludes, we hope that Mayor de Blasio and the City Council will increase funding in the following areas to help students whose needs are often overlooked: 

Support for Students who are Homeless: We are pleased that the Mayor has baselined funding for 53 Bridging the Gap social workers at schools with high concentrations of students living in shelters, ending the annual budget dance and helping to ensure the long-term continuity of the program. But 53 social workers is woefully insufficient to meet the need. Currently, the City has 69 Bridging the Gap social workers, and there are still 100 schools with 50 or more students living in shelters and no Bridging the Gap social worker to focus on the needs of these students. The final budget must include funding for at least 100 Bridging the Gap social workers.

Direct Mental Health Support for Students: The City Council’s budget response called on the DOE to provide direct mental health support to students who need help the most through a school mental health continuum funded through ThriveNYC, as recommended by the Mayor’s Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline. The Council also called on the DOE to hire an additional 110 social workers for high-needs schools. These vital investments would ensure that more students get the direct mental health and behavioral services they need so they can remain in school supported and learning. However, the Executive Budget does not include funding for either of these priorities. 

Support for Students in Foster Care: For students placed in foster care, school can be a key source of stability. The City Council’s budget response called on the DOE to ensure that students in foster care receive bus service so they don’t need to switch schools due to lack of transportation. This week, more than 30 organizations sent a letter to the Mayor requesting funding for guaranteed bus service for K-6th grade students in foster care, as well as a DOE Office for Students in Foster Care, as there is currently not a single DOE staff member focused full time on this student population. However, the Executive Budget does not include funding for these priorities.

Practices That Improve School Climate: While the use of Restorative Practices in NYC schools has expanded over the last few years, most schools still do not have access to this evidence-based approach that keeps students safe, supported, and learning in school, while they grow from their mistakes. The City needs to invest in bringing Restorative Practices to every school — and do so with fidelity.

We look forward to working with the Mayor and the City Council as the budget process continues to ensure the final budget invests in these critical areas.

View statement as a PDF

03.27.2019 | Advocates for Children signed on to an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Department of Commerce v. New York, challenging the proposed question on the 2020 census concerning citizenship status. The brief argues that including a citizenship question on the census will result in an undercount of immigrant communities. This undercount will result in the misallocation of education and community resource funding and harm students and their families. 

Read the amicus brief  [PDF
Read the news release [PDF]

02.27.2019 | In a decision received this week, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) found that Success Academy Charter Schools and the New York City Department of Education (DOE) violated the civil rights of students with disabilities. The decision [PDF] was issued in response to a complaint [PDF] that Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), with its pro bono co-counsel, Akin Gump, filed in November 2018 against Success Academy Charter Schools and the DOE. 

NYSED sustained each allegation, finding that Success Academy Charter Schools violated laws protecting the educational rights of students with disabilities. In particular:

  • Success Academy failed to implement students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). The schools did not provide the special education classes, small group special education instruction, or testing accommodations that the students had the right to receive.
  • Success Academy changed the special education placements of students with disabilities without offering their parents an opportunity for input, failing to provide the legally mandated notices, meetings, and due process procedures. 
  • Success Academy failed to comply with orders issued at special education administrative hearings. Even after parents requested administrative hearings and got orders requiring Success Academy to move their students back to their original classes, Success Academy refused to comply, in violation of the law.

In addition, NYSED found that the DOE violated the rights of students with disabilities at Success Academy schools by failing to provide parents with the legally required notice before changes of special education placements and failing to ensure compliance with orders issued at special education administrative hearings. NYSED’s decision called the lack of coordination and communication between Success Academy schools and the DOE regarding Success Academy students with disabilities a “breakdown in the process.”  

NYSED issued a Compliance Assurance Plan, requiring Success Academy Charter Schools and the DOE to take corrective action to remedy these violations in the upcoming months.

“This decision makes clear that students do not give up their civil rights when they enter a charter school, and parents do not give up their voice in their children’s education,” said Kim Sweet, Executive Director of AFC.  “Charter schools have more autonomy than other public schools, but do not get to decide which special education laws to follow.”

“The NYSED decision provides much-needed clarity as to the dual-responsibility of charter schools and the DOE to uphold the rights of students with disabilities,” said Caitlin Griffin, Associate at Akin Gump.

“My daughter was in the wrong special education placement at a Success school for over 7 months,” said Brenda Melendez-Lozada, the parent of a former student at Success Academy.  “With this decision, I hope that no other child will have to go through what she experienced.” 

Read the news release [PDF

Read the decision [PDF

Read the complaint [PDF]

02.07.2019 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) issued the following statement in response to the release of the City’s Fiscal Year 2020 Preliminary Budget:

The Preliminary Budget released today by Mayor Bill de Blasio would eliminate funding for the Department of Education’s Bridging the Gap social workers for students living in shelters.  Currently, there are 69 Bridging the Gap social workers who work in schools with high populations of students living in shelter, but the funding expires at the end of the school year.  For the past two years, the Mayor has omitted the funding from his Preliminary Budget, restoring the funding in his Executive Budget following an outcry from advocates and elected officials.  This year, the Mayor has, once again, omitted the funding from his Preliminary Budget.

“We are appalled that the Mayor continues to play budget games with critical supports for students living in shelters,” said Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York.  “With more than 100,000 students experiencing homelessness, the City should be increasing the number of Bridging the Gap social workers, not putting the continuation of the program in jeopardy.”

The 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 address chronic absenteeism.  

Since the 2010-2011 school year, the number of New York City students identified as homeless increased by 66%.  During the 2017-2018 school year, 114,659 students were identified as homeless by New York City school districts and charter schools.  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.  

View statement as a PDF

02.05.2019 | Ahead of a public hearing on proposed education funding in the New York state budget, the Safe and Supportive Schools Coalition urges lawmakers to expand support for school discipline reforms. Education advocates, community organizations and civil rights groups have called for an investment of $50 million dollars into school climate improvement measures, through legislation known as the Safe and Supportive Schools Act (A.1981/S.0767).

The Governor’s budget proposal included $3 million dollars for school discipline reform measures, including resources for teachers and school administrators to address student mental health, supports for alternatives to exclusionary discipline, and legislation to require school districts to reduce and regulate the role of police officers in schools. Education justice advocates welcome the Governor’s support but stress that the budget proposal must go further. 

Advocates call for the reforms to include a prohibition on suspending students in Kindergarten through third grade, an end to suspensions for minor infractions, a limit of 20 days for out-of-school suspensions, and an increase in positive behavioral supports and interventions for students.

A joint Senate and Assembly hearing on the education components of the state budget will take place in Albany on February 6. 

Rebecca Shore, Advocates for Children of New York: “While we are encouraged that the Governor included in his proposed budget funding for training teachers and school staff on alternatives to suspension, including restorative practices and positive behavioral supports, the proposed amount in the budget is not enough to meet the needs of the state.   An allocation of the recommended $50 million along with passage of the Safe and Supportive Schools Act is necessary.”

Read the press release [PDF]

The Safe and Supportive Schools coalition includes Advancement Project, Advocates for Children of New York, Alliance for Quality Education, Children’s Defense Fund, Citizen Action of New York, Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, The Legal Aid Society, Make the Road New York, New York Civil Liberties Union, Student Advocacy, Urban Youth Collaborative and the YWCA of Brooklyn. 

11.29.2018 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York along with co-counsel Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP filed a complaint with the New York State Education Department against Success Academy Charter Schools and the New York City Department of Education (“DOE”) for failing to comply with civil rights laws protecting students with disabilities who attend Success Academy schools.  The complaint alleges that Success Academy has changed the placements of students with disabilities without following procedures required to protect the rights of students with disabilities and their parents and has refused to comply with administrative hearing orders in special education cases.

Read the news release [PDF]

Read the complaint [PDF]

11.02.2018 | Today, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement in response to the New York City Department of Education’s annual report of information regarding students receiving special education services pursuant to Local Law 27 of 2015:

The data released today showcase the need for better service delivery and a better data system for New York City’s more than 200,000 students with disabilities.

While the data show incremental improvements, we are alarmed that more than 20 percent of students with disabilities—nearly 40,000 students—are still going without the full special education instruction they are entitled to receive under the law.  Given the 40-point gap in reading proficiency between students with disabilities and their nondisabled peers, it is essential that the DOE ensure students with disabilities receive the instruction they need.

To help ensure students get the services they need, we also need data we can trust.  Two years ago, the DOE issued an assessment report on the Special Education Student Information System (SESIS) finding it “apparent that improvements are needed.”  But the data report released today shows that the DOE still lacks the internal systems to report data with the necessary accuracy.  The City must improve the reliability of its special education data and provide parents with full access to their child’s SESIS records so that parents can monitor their child’s special education evaluations, programs, and services.

View the DOE’s data report

View statement as a PDF

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

10.15.2018 | 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: