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Micaela is a dual-language learner who is on the autism spectrum and needed an appropriate school placement for kindergarten.

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AFC in the News

08.29.2023 | Chalkbeat NY | “Even prior to all this there was a tremendous need” for education department staffers working directly in homeless shelters to help families with school-related issues, said Jennifer Pringle, a project director at Advocates for Children, an organization that advocates for children in shelters, among other groups. 

Advocates for Children had pushed the education department to hire 150 full-time shelter-based staffers before the influx of asylum seekers began, and last year, the city committed to hiring 100. But advocates say that number is insufficient to address the current needs. 

“You’ve opened dozens and dozens of new shelters with no additional staff,” Pringle said. “To me, it’s utterly not surprising that there are enrollment delays, and in fact, I would be shocked if there weren’t.” Read article

08.23.2023 | NY1 | “It saddens me that a child has to be excluded from programs that they might enjoy, that they might like, just because of physical disability,” Espino said. “It makes me feel horrible for a parent who can’t really choose schools based on performance, based on what they have to offer. The last thing they should have to think about is, ‘will my kid be able to get in the building?’” 

A new report from Advocates for Children found that two-thirds of the city’s public schools are not fully accessible to people with physical disabilities. There are more than 1,400 school buildings in the city, some of them housing multiple schools. This school year:

  • Only 34% of those school buildings are fully accessible
  • Nearly 20% are partially accessible
  • Almost 5% are not fully accessible, but are in the pipeline for improvements
  • And 41% of buildings are fully or functionally inaccessible.

AFC uses the term functionally inaccessible for buildings a wheelchair user may be able to enter, but which doesn’t offer any classrooms on the first floor, meaning they’re not an educational option for those students. 

A partially accessible school has classrooms a child can access, but they may be cut off from huge parts of the building. “You might be able to get in the door, but there might be whole areas of the building that are totally off limits. So you can’t get into the science lab. You can’t take that class or you can’t participate in certain clubs. You aren’t a full member of the school community,” Sarah Part, senior policy analyst at Advocates for Children, said. Watch video

08.23.2023 | Chalkbeat NY | Fewer than one in three New York City public schools are fully accessible to students with physical disabilities, according to a report released Wednesday by Advocates for Children that calls on the city to ramp up funding for building upgrades. 

The city is on track to boost the share of fully accessible programs from about one in five schools to one in three under the current capital program, according to the Advocates for Children analysis. (The figures do not include certain alternative schools, prekindergarten programs, or charter schools. Nor do they include satellite campuses, as schools may have more than one location.) 

“That represents a huge amount of progress, which really shows that when you commit to making schools accessible, you can make a huge difference,” said Sarah Part, a policy analyst at Advocates for Children. “The current lack of accessibility isn’t inevitable.” Read article

08.23.2023 | NY Daily News | More than two-thirds of New York City public schools are not fully accessible for students with physical disabilities, making many programs out of reach for children in wheelchairs or with limited mobility, according to a new report out Wednesday. 

At four in 10 schools there are no accessible classrooms at all, stranding hundreds of kids at the schoolhouse door when classes resume in just a couple of weeks, researchers found. 

“No child should be turned away from a school because the facilities are not accessible,” said Kim Sweet, executive director of Advocates for Children of New York, which published the analysis. 

Under federal law, people with disabilities are entitled to equal access to public programs and services, including public schools. While the city has taken long-delayed steps in recent years to move closer to that promise, scores of children are still shut out of their neighborhood schools. Read article

08.23.2023 | City & State | Only 31% of 1,587 New York City public schools are expected to be fully accessible for students with physical disabilities entering the new academic year, and about 39% remain “functionally or fully inaccessible,” to students, visitors or educators who use a wheelchair, according to a report released Wednesday. 

The latest numbers, compiled by nonprofit Advocates for Children, shows that the New York City Department of Education’s $750 million allocation toward building accessibility projects in 2019 helped the school system make some important strides in nearing its goal of making one-third of buildings fully accessible by 2024, but much work remains. Barriers for students with physical disabilities like inaccessible entryways, exits and playgrounds persist in many schools even as some progress has been made.  Read article

08.11.2023 | Chalkbeat NY | Randi Levine, the policy director at Advocates for Children, said the organization is “deeply concerned about the impact of a potential bus strike.” 

“Many students with disabilities, as well as students living in shelter, and students in foster care, rely on school bus service to get to school and we want to ensure they have a way of getting to school from the first day,” she said. Read article

08.11.2023 | Chalkbeat NY | Randi Levine, the policy director at Advocates for Children, said the organization is “deeply concerned about the impact of a potential bus strike.” 

“Many students with disabilities, as well as students living in shelter, and students in foster care, rely on school bus service to get to school and we want to ensure they have a way of getting to school from the first day,” she said. Read article

08.09.2023 | NY1 | “The city has a legal obligation to provide English language learner programming for students who have been identified by the city, by the Department of Education, as students who are English language learners,” said Diana Aragundi, assistant director of the Immigrant Students’ Rights Project at Advocates for Children. 

The arrival of thousands of migrant students has strained a system that struggled to serve English language learners even before they arrived. Tuesday, Adams suggested other agencies or citizens could help fill the void and teach classes in shelters. 

“While I commend community organizations that are providing all different types of programming for people that are new to the city and need to learn English, the obligation that the city has is for students to receive this programming in school,” Aragundi said. Watch video

07.19.2023 | The New York Times | The delays “make this system so burdensome for parents, and harm students in so many ways,” said Rebecca Shore, the litigation director at Advocates for Children, the nonprofit group that filed the 2003 suit with the firm Milbank. 

The process, she added, “is especially hard for families who do not have resources.” 

One public school parent, Maria, who spoke on the condition that she be identified by only her first name because of privacy concerns, said she filed a special education complaint four years ago for her son David, who has a learning disability. 

A year later, the Education Department was ordered to pay for David, now 16, to attend a private tutoring center in Manhattan. But at one point, it owed the center more than $60,000, Maria’s lawyer said, and warned that her son might lose his spot if payment did not arrive. 

The city was also required to pay about $47 a week for MetroCards to travel from the Bronx, she said. But Maria said she spent more than $1,200 of family funds on transportation while waiting months for reimbursement, and was forced to cut down on spending on groceries. Read article

07.19.2023 | NY1 | “For a number of families who don’t have the ability and the resources to front the money and essentially give a loan to the DOE, without interest and for an unspecified amount of time, it means that those students aren’t able to get the services that are being ordered for them,” Rebecca Shore, director of litigation at Advocates for Children, said. 

If they pay out of pocket and await reimbursement, the cost can be staggering. 

“We’ve had families that have had to take out mortgages on their home, take second lines of credit,” Shore said. 

It’s the focus of a lawsuit that was initially filed by the organization Advocates for Children in 2003. In a 2007 settlement, the Education Department agreed that it would implement hearing orders within 35 days. 

As of this year, the city is failing to meet that standard 97% of the time. Watch video