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Who We Are

AFC's History: A Chronology

AFC's History: A Brief Chronology

Pioneers for Education Reform, 1969-1979

1969–1970
A group of parents and community activists come together to form Queens Lay Advocate Service (QLAS). This volunteer organization provides trainings on the legal rights of students and assists families with school-related problems, particularly inappropriate suspensions. QLAS partners with local anti-poverty organizations such as the Education Action Center.

1971
Alternative Solutions for Exceptional Children (ASFEC) is created to improve education and support services for young people with disabilities.

1972–1973
ASFEC starts the Martin de Porres Day Treatment Program and Group Home for low-income children labeled emotionally disturbed to provide an appropriate education and related services to address their special needs. The school continues to serve these children today.

1973–1975
A formal consortium develops among QLAS, the Education Action Center, and ASFEC. Together they publish “Lost Children,” documenting the discriminatory education and support services provided to poor children of color with disabilities in New York City. A second study reveals that 50% of New York City students entering high school never graduate and that the drop outs are mainly poor youth of color who were either excluded from school or whose educational needs were never addressed.

1976
QLAS legally merges with ASFEC, and the organization adopts the name Advocates for Children of New York (AFC).

1978
AFC launches a Special Education Unit and expands its advocacy staff to include counselors, attorneys, researchers, and trainers. Through this unit and its progeny, AFC has secured education and support services for over half a million students.

1979
AFC co-counsels the landmark case Jose P. v. Ambach to correct the process by which students awaiting special education evaluation and placement are considered. The resulting Jose P. consent decree has been in effect in New York City for more than 30 years and continues to have a profound impact on New York City schools.

AFC is co-counsel in Boe v. Board of Ed., documenting improper suspension of disadvantaged students and providing relief through remedial counseling and vocational programs.

1980-1999

1982
AFC establishes the Parents' Coalition for Education, a citywide alliance of parents striving for school-based and systemic reforms to benefit public school children.

1984–1985
AFC organizes and conducts a public conference, Our Children at Risk: The Crisis in Public Education [PDF]. The resulting findings and report are disseminated nationwide.

1986
AFC conducts hearings on the status of immigrant children in the New York City schools.

1989
AFC wins its first in a continuing succession of federal parent center grants to train service providers and parents of children with disabilities to advocate for and protect the educational rights of these children.

1992
AFC publishes Segregated and Second Rate: Special Education in New York [PDF], continuing to document and verify the over-segregation of children and youth with disabilities receiving special education services.

1994
AFC joins co-counsel to bring Ray M. v. NYC Board of Education and NYS Department of Education on behalf of parents of preschool children with disabilities who have been denied their rights to an appropriate education under both federal and state law. The case settles in 1999, bringing relief to over 25,000 preschool children with disabilities.

1995
AFC is chosen as the New York partner for the nationwide “Mobilization for Equity and Excellence Project” and promotes reform in low-performing schools through intensive bilingual training seminars to ensure parents know their rights.

1996
AFC partners with the New York Immigration Coalition on the “Transforming Education for New York’s Newest” project, in order to address educational issues facing immigrant families.

1999
AFC helps create and house the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) Coalition, dedicated to advocating on behalf of children with disabilities and their families.

2000-2021

2000
AFC releases Educational Neglect: The Delivery of Education Services to Children in New York City’s Foster Care System [PDF], which concludes that thousands of children in the City's foster care system are being denied basic educational services. The report, the first to document comprehensively the widespread lack of proper educational services for this population, has national implications.

AFC starts its Public Information Center to help parents navigate the New York City public school system. AFC launches the website that later becomes InsideSchools.org, distilling data on school achievement into a parent-friendly format and providing qualitative reviews of school programs.

2002–2003
AFC, in conjunction with the Public Advocate, releases Pushing Out At-Risk Students: An Analysis of High School Discharge Figures [PDF], exposing the problem of illegal discharge from NYC schools. This report and the trilogy of cases that AFC filed after it set off a firestorm around illegal school push outs and lead to important policy changes at the Department of Education.

2004
AFC and co-counsel file J.G. v. Mills, on behalf of court-involved youth who were being denied timely re-enrollment to school upon release from a court-ordered setting.

2005
AFC and co-counsel file L.V. v. Department of Education on behalf of parents of children with disabilities who had received favorable orders and settlements in impartial hearings that were not being fully and timely enforced.

AFC makes its education advocacy skills and expertise available to select grantees of the Robin Hood Foundation in order to help them build capacity to address their clients’ education-related needs.

AFC is selected to be home to the New York State Technical and Education Assistance Center for Homeless Students (NYS-TEACHS) to provide training and support for school districts throughout the state to improve education for children and youth in temporary housing. Today, AFC’s Project LIT partners with shelters to improve education outcomes for students experiencing homelessness.

2007
AFC receives City Council funding to expand and enhance its Education Helpline in memory of Jill Chaifetz, the organization’s late executive director and a beloved NYC education advocate. AFC’s Jill Chaifetz Education Helpline continues to be a critical resource for thousands of NYC families every year. 

AFC forms a coalition of families, education organizations, and advocacy groups across New York State to demand that the State address excessive use of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) diploma, which was not a valid high school diploma and was being used to push students with disabilities out of school prematurely. The group later expands its focus to look at graduation requirements and diploma options more broadly, becoming the Coalition for Multiple Pathways to a Diploma.  

2008
AFC brings together a diverse group of parents, advocates and educators to form the ARISE Coalition, ARISE Coalition, a powerful and united voice in support of students with disabilities in New York City. The group continues to work to compel systemic reform to improve special education and assure more positive outcomes and options for all student.

2013
AFC partners with Judge Judith Kaye and the New York State Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children to convene the School Justice Partnership Task Force, producing recommendations [PDF] for NYC's mayor to keep kids in school and out of the courts. The Task Force became a model for school justice reform in other cities and states. 

2015
Starting in 2015, AFC publishes annual data on the number of students experiencing homelessness each year in NYC to draw much-needed attention to the unique educational needs of this vast group of students. For six consecutive years, AFC’s data has shown that more than 100,000 New York City students experience homelessness each year.

2018
AFC brings together 13 child welfare agencies in NYC to form an Education Collaborative, a unique partnership that strengthens education advocacy for students in foster care. The Education Collaborative builds the capacity of a community of practitioners to do education advocacy for the families and students they serve, greatly expanding access to this service for students in need while funneling more complex individual cases to our experienced attorneys and advocates.

2020
AFC transitions quickly to virtual operations in March 2020, advocating for access to remote instruction for low-income families and providing training and information to tens of thousands of parents and service providers to help them navigate a constantly changing school system during the pandemic. Our advocacy on dozens of key issues during the pandemic led to more than 25 concrete policy changes.

2021
AFC works with the DOE and the ARISE Coalition to co-host a Literacy Summit that draws attention to literacy as an equity issue and helps galvanize support for improving instruction. Learn more about AFC’s work on literacy