OUR EDUCATION PLATFORM

POLICY CONTRIBUTORS, WRITERS, EDITORS

POLICY CONTRIBUTORS

  1. Aixa Rodriguez, MORE-UFT
  2. Amallia Orman, Social Justice Educator
  3. Ashley Sawyer, Girls for Gender Equality
  4. Dawn Yuster, Advocates for Children of New York
  5. Deborah Chang, Youth Power Coalition
  6. Farzana Pritte, Youth Power Coalition
  7. Gregory Brender, United Neighborhood Houses New York
  8. Huiying B. Chan, NYU Metropolitan Center
  9. Julissa Bisono, Make the Road NY
  10. Kate McDonough, Dignity for Schools NY
  11. Kesi Foster, Urban Youth Collaborative
  1. Louis Cholden-Brown, Collaborative Democracy Project
  2. Marsha Jean-Charles, The Brotherhood/ Sister Sol
  3. Matt Gonzales, NYU Metropolitan Center, IntegrateNYC, RJPS
  4. Sophie Xu
  5. Megan Amelia Hester, NYU Metropolitan Center
  6. Meg Jones, MORE-UFT
  7. Michael Perlberg, Educator
  8. Natasha Capers, NYC Coalition for Educational Justice
  9. Nia Morgan, Urban Youth Collaborative
  1. Pablo, New Settlement
  2. Sally Frank
  3. Sally Lee, Teachers Unite
  4. Sarah Landes, Make the Road NY
  5. Shino Tanikawa, MORE-UFT
  6. Shreya Sunderram, Teachers Unite 
  7. Vanessa Leung, Coalition for Asian American Children and Families
  8. William Diep, Youth Power Coalition 
  9. Zakiyah Ansari, Alliance for Quality Education
  10. Sarah Zapiler, Integrate NYC
  11. Jose Vilson, EduColor

WRITERS

  • Michael Perlberg
  • Johanna Miller
  • Chana Sternberg
  • Leena Dughly
  • Ellie Baron
  • Shubh Thakkar
  • Virginia Hart
  • Ilana Novick
  • Lucy Merriam
  • Hamza Taj
  • Gregory Brender
  • Jennifer Qu
  • Nora Moran
  • Elijah Rockhold
  • Josie Steuer Ingall

EDITORS

  • Zara Nasir
  • Elijah Rockhold
  • Ilana Novick
  • Virginia Hart
  • Ellie Baron
THE STORY OF THE LAST 7 YEARS

Great strides in some areas of education policy, slow and inconsistent progress in others. The day after his reelection in 2018, Mayor de Blasio said education would be a top priority of his second term. As Chalkbeat reports, de Blasio stated, “We need the school system to look entirely different in the coming years,” and “that will be the issue I put my greatest passion and energy into.” While the establishment of Universal Pre-K has been significant for New Yorkers, parents, students, and educators would be hard-pressed to say the school system looks entirely different. The Department of Education launched a number of laudable initiatives in the last 7 years, including Community Schools, universal pre-K, roll out of district specific 3k programs, implicit bias training, Universal free breakfast and lunch, adoption of the Culturally Responsive- Sustaining Education Framework, diversity in admissions pilots, and a reworking of the discipline code to include more focus on restorative justice practices. Unfortunately, these efforts have either been too small or have not been implemented with consistency across the system.

WINS OF OUR MOVEMENT

Despite a lack of significant departure from status quo policies, education organizers and advocates won some big victories for New York City schools and education at the city level: 

  • Universal Early Childhood: The launch of universal pre-kindergarten or “Pre-K” for all New Yorkers is the major educational policy achievement of the De Blasio administration. “3K” or pre-kindergarten for children ages 3 has rolled out in about half the districts in the city, but does not have seats for all 3 year olds. Children with disabilities continued to be short changed with limited seats in both Pre-K and 3-K policy.
  • Equity Initiatives: The Department of Education has begun to address racial justice more directly than ever before. Mandatory Implicit Bias training is taking place for all Department of Education employees citywide, and 62 out of 67 recommendations from the School Diversity Advisory Group’s first report have been adopted; some admissions policies, such as District 15, have been changed to eliminate screens that have led to highly segregated schools in the past. 
  • Culturally Responsive Education: After advocacy from Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ) and other activists, the City officially adopted the Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education definition for promoting diversity in learning. As Chalkbeat reported, the City developed a fellowship program with 60 educators to create more inclusive learning materials. Since then, NYC public schools adopted a new more diverse NYC Reads 365 booklist, launched the CRSE Fellows and committed that all future curriculum purchases must be culturally responsive. However, there has been an inadequate rollout and training for Department of Education staff on the policy, and uneven adoption of culturally responsive practices, curriculum, and policies in schools. 
  • Integration: In 2017, pressure from students and families led the Department of Education to create the School Diversity Advisory Group. The group produced two formal policy recommendations to integrate NYC public schools, based on IntegrateNYC’s 5 Rs Framework for Real Integration. The DOE adopted many of the proposed policy recommendations, and a few individual school districts across the city led the charge and took on integration measures locally, according to Chalkbeat.
  • Funding for Schools: In 2021, as part of the budget, the New York State will give schools the $4.3 billion that was owed from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, according to the Gothamist. That 3-year funding increase comes on top of a massive federal stimulus package for schools, providing New York State an additional $12 billion.
  • Community Schools: The Coalition for Community School Excellence and educators pushing racial and social justice have long sought investments in community schools with wraparound services, health supports, adult education opportunities and enrichment. Out of 1600 schools, 267 schools are now community schools. 
  • Shifts in conversation narrative about school safety. Advocates won a big increase in social workers, according to Patch, and a big shift in narrative around school policing, with more conversation around the role of school safety agents and policing in schools.
WHERE WE LOST
  • Integration: Despite the wins in equity initiatives, the Mayor and Council has failed to implement major changes to promote more holistically integrated schools. Any measures around admissions that have been enacted have only led to temporary changes that could swiftly change in the next mayoral administration. The recommendations of panels and committees such as the School Diversity Advisory Group have not been adopted in their entirety. The absence of action on the below focal points has also prevented a realization of meaningful and complete integration that goes beyond desegregation. Most importantly, the Mayor especially has not shown moral leadership in desegregating schools, as evidenced by the departure of Chancellor Richard Carranza, as reported by the Gotham Gazette.  
  • Continued criminalization of youth in schools. Schools are understaffed and desperately needed school counselors and social workers, yet the city continues to invest in policing and the NYPD in our schools over the material, pedagogical, behavior, and emotional supports that are truly needed.
A VISION FORWARD

Every New York City student deserves an education that is high-quality, transformative, culturally responsive, and provides tools and opportunities for all students to equitably participate in democracy, enter the workforce, and ultimately reach their fullest potential. We imagine a truly public education system that prioritizes and values the most vulnerable students that fall within any intersections of historically marginalized students of color, students living in poverty, students living in transitional housing, students with disabilities, multilingual learners, documented and undocumented immigrants, and LGBTQIA+ students. All students have the right to physically accessible spaces, inclusive learning environments, and safe and supportive schools that utilize restorative practices.

Education advocates cannot rest on the few successes of the past 7 years. Political leadership in the city has failed again and again to show up for our most marginalized students. The State has a fair share of power and control over our schools. But we must adopt a bold education policy at the city level. We must adopt policies that align with the People’s Plan and the New Yorkers for Racially Just Public Schools platform. We must continue to seek truly public schools that are supportive, culturally responsive, integrated, equitably funded, inclusive, and engaged with their community. We seek schools that our children love and that love our children back.

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

1) DECRIMINALIZE SCHOOLS

New York City public schools employ more school safety agents than school counselors and social workers according to the ACLU. City & State reported that Black, LatinX, Indigenous and immigrant students and those with disabilities are more likely to have negative interactions with school police, including school arrests. This is a reflection of the entire City, where Black and Brown New Yorkers bear the brunt of the harshest NYPD policies and practices. Commonly known as the school-to-prison pipeline, punitive discipline programs and school police lead to more students dropping out and funnelling students into the prison system. Removing police from schools and replacing punitive discipline systems with restorative justice will lead to a safer school environment, and diminish the school-to-prison pipeline.

1A. Remove police from schools

Problem: New York City employs a school police force of around 200 uniformed NYPD officers and 5,200 NYPD school safety agents, according to UFT. The City plans to hire 475 more school safety agents in 2021, according to NY1. This at a fiscal cost of a minimum of $500 million to the City, for FY21 alone, and a social cost to thousands of students, especially Black students, who are arrested, given citations, subjected to force, and handcuffed in their classrooms and cafeterias each year. According to Politico, Black and Latinx account for 90 percent of arrests, 93 percent of summonses, and 89 percent of juvenile reports, but just 66 percent of the student population. 

Recommendation: Police officers should play no role in school discipline, and should not be permanently stationed in schools. Schools that have heavy NYPD presence for “order and discipline” are the same schools that lack basic educational supports for kids, including school counselors, mental health support, computer labs and libraries, extracurricular activities, and even well-appointed facilities. The City should redirect the $500 million spent annually on school police and school arrests to supportive staffing and school climate improvements.

Office: Mayor

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

1B. Overhaul the school discipline system

Problem: There are wide racial gaps in who is punished under New York City’s school discipline system, with Black and Latinx students suffering the brunt of school discipline actions, according to MassBudget. Absence due to suspensions and expulsions pushes students out of schools and into the school-to-prison-pipeline. Schools disproportionately give dress code violations to Black and Latinx girls and gender non-conforming and non-binary youth. Gendered dress codes and the policing of student attire also leads to excusing and perpetuating rape culture, according to Brooklyn Community Foundation. 

Recommendation: We Are Teachers reports that suspension rates decrease dramatically with the transition of punitive school disciplinary systems to ones based on restorative justice models. The City should overhaul its school discipline system, while promoting safety and wellbeing in schools, without punitive measures or policing. The City should increase school budgets to include full-time restorative justice coordinators, social workers and school counselors and immediately replace all K-3 suspensions with alternative measures. By shifting away from retributive or punitive disciplining, and emphasizing a prevention before punishment structure, in-school police citations and infractions will likely decline, give students the tools to de-escalate conflict-ridden situations, and lead to a safer school environment, according to the Center for Popular Democracy and the Urban Youth Collaborative.

Office: Mayor

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

1C. End school arrests, summonses, and juvenile reports in schools

Problem: In 2019, the New York ACLU reported that there were more than 11,000 police-involved incidents in NYC schools: nearly 700 arrests, more than 1400 juvenile reports, and 330 summonses were issued. The majority of arrests were for misdemeanors and more than a third were for incidents that happened away from school. Summonses are only issued for non-criminal violations and juvenile reports are issued only to children under 16. The Urban Youth Collaborative found that less than a quarter of students said that police made them feel safe. In other words, the vast majority of police interactions in schools do not make schools safe, and create a harmful culture of fear and control. Worse, Black and Latinx students face the brunt of these interactions, receiving nearly 90 percent of them each year.

Solution: New York City should ban the arrest of students in school for conduct that is not alleged to have taken place in the school, and for alleged misconduct that rises to the level of a misdemeanor. New York City should also ban the issuing of criminal court summonses, and separately, juvenile reports, to students in school. These punishments are ineffective and inappropriate in the context of a learning environment, and interfere with students’ right to learn. 

Office: Mayor

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

1D. End police intervention for students in emotional crisis

Problem: In 2019, the NYPD reported 3,438 “child-in-crisis” incidents in schools according to the New York ACLU. These students displaying signs of emotional distress are removed from the classroom and taken to hospital for a psychological evaluation. These are children experiencing a powerful emotion sometimes past the point where they can effectively self-regulate, like a panic attack. They are not necessarily dangerous, but they are in desperate need of help from a trained mental health professional. The police report using handcuffs on these children 9 percent of the time. The New York ACLU reported that children of color experiencing emotional distress are far more likely to be categorized as “children in crisis” requiring police intervention representing 91 percent of cases where handcuffs are used.

Solution: Police should never be called to respond to a child experiencing emotional distress, unless the child presents a serious and immediate danger of physical injury to herself or others, and there are no viable alternatives. No child should be handcuffed in school. Instead, schools need trained mental health professionals, including clinical psychologists and social workers. Students should have full access to early interventions, and every child should have an adult in the school building who will see signs of a coming crisis. This can be achieved through deliberate school climate improvement plans that focus on relationship-building and teaching students social and emotional skills. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: City Legislation, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy 

2) SUPPORT STUDENTS’ HEALTH, MENTAL HEALTH, AND BEHAVIORAL NEEDS

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened demand for student mental health care, New York City students have long needed more supportive adults in school buildings. Public schools have relied on over policing students rather than providing them with a nurturing school environment. The City’s current approach to students in distress or student needs is either neglect or punishment. Mayor de Blasio’s stated goals in the 2021 Student Achievement Plan do not meet the needs of our students because of the overloaded casework of mental health professionals in schools and the demand for culturally relevant and restorative justice curriculum reform. The next mayor must prioritize mental health services in schools by hiring more social workers and school counselors, requiring de-escalation training for all school employees, and implementing restorative justice practices across all NYC public schools. 

2A. Create a culturally competent, health-centered mental health continuum

Problem: New York City schools rely on an unnecessary amount of police activity in order to deal with children in crisis. Instead of having an adequate humane response to children dealing with a mental health issue, 97 percent of children were reported by the NYPD to be handcuffed. Approximately 92% of these students were Black or Latinx, according to the NYPD’s own reporting. As of 2019, the ACLU reported that New York City schools hired more police officers than any other school district in the county and only 333 school counselors were documented to be working at the Department of Education. This ratio perpetuates a punishment and fear-based approach to dealing with students’ needs.

Solution: Schools with mental health clinics report to have fewer fights, less truancy, and more positive school climate, according to the Journal of School Health. The City should redirect the $450 million spent annually on school policing and increase funding to create truly safe and supportive school communities through robust mental health services, social and emotional support systems, and restorative practices. The City should increase the number of culturally- competent, trauma-informed mental health support staff, creating supportive positions that hire directly from the community and do not require higher education, training school employees and students in tools around de-escalation and peer-mediation, among other reforms.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget

2B. Increase culturally-competent, trauma-informed mental health staff 

Problem: The City’s 2021 Student Achievement Plan includes goals to provide students with mental health screenings, hire an additional 150 social workers, and increase the number of community schools. The plan will begin with students in the 27 communities most impacted by COVID-19. However, the Department of Education reports that there is currently only one counselor for 327 students, a shortage that will not be covered with this limited hiring. There are currently 290,000 students without a full-time social worker according to Advocates for Children. As Chalkbeat reports, all faculty have not been trained in trauma-informed instruction. 

Recommendation: The City must decrease the ratio of mental health support staff to students to 1:100. The mayor should start by immediately restoring its $8 million cut from the 2021 budget, which eliminated 25 vacant social worker positions, and add increased budget lines to address this issue. Further, DOE should train and expand its curriculum and training around mental health. Chalkbeat reports that about 13,000 educators have received professional development on trauma-informed curriculums and students coping with grief and loss. Mental health training should not be offered only during extreme circumstances like the pandemic. Schools must incorporate trauma-informed approaches into staff professional development.

Office: Mayor

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

2C. Train and coach Department of Education employees in de-escalation and restorative justice

Problem: Discipline for students in New York City schools has traditionally taken on a punitive nature in which students are punished for behavior that is deemed disruptive. This punitive system “disciplines” students through detentions, suspensions, and even police intervention. This punitive structure sets a precedent for school employees to use these counterintuitive disciplinary structures to “correct” student behavior. Students of color, low income students, and students with disabilities in New York City schools are disproportionately vulnerable to harsh retributive punishments, according to the Urban Youth Collaborative and the Center for Popular Democracy. Without alternative tools to handle student-related conflicts or escalations, school staff may revert to police intervention, even for minor infractions of school policies, which may lead to student arrest or injury. 

Recommendation: The City of New York must train Department of Education staff in de-escalation and conflict resolution skills.  In addition, implementing restorative discipline will ensure that schools meet student needs, instead of viewing non-normative behavior as a “problem,” labeled so due to racism, misogyny, ableism, xenophobia, and/or other bias. Student behavioral problems can often be the result of an underlying issue, such as unstable housing situation, hunger, or abuse. The City should work with teachers and principal unions, and other staff unions, to implement restorative justice and care-based responses to student needs.

Office: Mayor

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

2D. Hire and place a restorative justice coordinator in every school

Problem:  A range of student behavior, from students expressing emotions, to students resisting a violation of their boundaries, to talking to their friends or hanging outside of school is deemed disruptive and punishable because of racialized and ableist understandings of misbehavior. Unmet core needs too, such as food, housing, or safety, is often dealt with by schools through retributive punishment instead of support. The National Bureau of Economic Research reports that harsh discipline practices, like suspensions and expulsions, disproportionately harm poor Black and Latinx students, result in poor academic outcomes, and a greater likelihood of police interaction, and the associated risk of arrest, immigration complications, physical injury or emotional distress, and police violence. 

Solution: Without dedicated staff to focus on restorative approaches with student conflicts and needs, schools will continue to fall back on punishing students and escalating situations to call in for police intervention. New York City schools must hire a restorative justice coordinator in every school to ensure student-centered and harm reductionist approaches. Coordinators could be trained on peaceful conflict resolution skills and restorative justice practices like circle-building, responding to student needs, and providing support through connected services, as detailed by the Brooklyn Community Foundation. This must be coupled with police-free schools, without which restorative justice practices cannot be used to their full potential.

Office: Mayor

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

2E. Train young people in peer mediation and restorative practices

Problem: The NYU Metropolitan Center reported that schools were more likely to suspend Black, Latinx, and Native American New York City public school students than their white counterparts. Harsh discipline can lead to students skipping school, more interaction with police, and criminalization leading to jail or prison according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.  Despite some promising steps towards training young people in peer mediation and restorative practices, these efforts are limited in scale while punitive disciplinary practices remain and continue to harm Black, Latinx, and indigenous students the most. 

Recommendation: Peer mediation programs allow students to resolve everyday conflicts. Many non-profits like Morningside Center, the Resolution Center, and New York Peace Institute, partner with New York City public schools for free peer mediation training, and the New York City Commission on Human Rights has released a peer mediation guide for school staff and students. In 2019, the Mayor’s Office announced that they would add restorative justice practices to all NYC middle schools, a positive step. The next mayor must ensure there are scaled programs of peer mediation and restorative justice in all public schools. Restorative justice coordinators in every school could aid in students receiving peer mediation. 

Office: Mayor

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

2F. Increase the ratio of social workers and school counselors to students 

Problem: According to the American School Counselor Association, schools should have 250 students per school counselor. However, the Department of Education estimated the student to counselor ratio to be 333:1 in 2019. In contrast, New York City schools employ 5,090 NYPD school safety agents and 119 armed police in schools, according to the ACLU, more than any other school district in America, according to Brotherhood and Sister Sol. The City hired 150 new social workers for low-income schools in the summer of 2020, according to Chalkbeat, but DOE will need many more budget lines to correct the social worker to student ratio. 

Recommendation: Hiring enough support staff to fully meet recommended ratios will likely take time. The City can start by removing police officers and agents from schools and using those funds towards hiring more student support staff. Any hired support staff must not play a punitive or policing function. Schools should hire at least one counselor and one social worker per 250 students. Support staff in schools with a higher percentage of low-income or immigrant students should have less caseloads to spend adequate time on students’ needs. The ratio of support staff to students must be higher at these schools, with 1 staff for every 50 or 100 students. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

2G. Invest in school-based health centers in Black, Latinx, and immigrant communities

Problem: According to the State Department of Health, thousands of children have limited access to comprehensive health services. According to the Children’s Defense Fund, students with unmet health needs are much less likely to perform at grade level, tending to receive lower grades and higher numbers of absences. School-based health centers provide care regardless of immigration status and insurance coverage at no out-of-pocket cost to students or their guardians, making them critically important for those with few avenues to access traditional care. But currently, per NYCDOE data, only 23% of state-administered (i.e., non-charter) public schools in the city have school-based health centers on their campuses. 

Recommendation: The City must establish clearer systems of administration and oversight, more standardized and robust funding streams, and data- and population-based authorization processes for new school-based health centers in partnership with community health center staff, including physicians, mental health professionals, administrators, and legal aid providers, as well as with youth community members, collaboratively developing best practices for coordinated intervention grounded in the specific nuances of high-need schools. These schools require assistance in identifying sponsors for health center programming and personnel, which should be actualized by the City through a comprehensive, targeted approach. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

NYU Metro Center reports that young people learn best when they feel understood by their teachers and when “their academic pursuits are linked to their everyday lives, social contexts, and passions.” Yet, New York City school curriculums currently tend to center more privileged perspectives. In 2018, 93 percent of NYC teachers surveyed by NYU Metro Center were open to making their curriculum more culturally responsive, but 59 percent did not have access to the resources needed to do so. The City must fully invest in the Department of Education’s definition of culturally responsive and sustaining education by arranging teacher trainings, funding sex education and civic studies, and investing in new culturally responsive curriculum. 

3A. Require that all new curriculum purchases are culturally responsive

Problem: New York City schools rely on curriculum that are often heavily outdated and culturally unresponsive, unreflective of the diverse student population they are meant to instruct.  This makes it difficult for students to feel comfortable in their learning environments. Students from marginalized communities, such as Black students, Indigenous students, students of color, LGBTQ students, and students from low-income backgrounds, often struggle to relate to course materials because their daily circumstances are not represented or reflected in materials.  

Recommendation: New York City schools must require new curriculum purchases and revisions that are culturally responsive and mindful of cultural diversity, challenge racial and cultural stereotypes, and use knowledge of diverse cultures and experiences to guide instruction. Culturally responsive curriculum should be in place for every subject and every grade level. This will make learning experiences more relevant and relatable for students from marginalized communities.  It will also allow educators to connect themes with students’ own lives and experiences, allowing them to engage with the material. The City should incentivize teachers to share culturally responsive lesson plans on a central, public-facing website. 

Office: Mayor

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

3B. Fund ethnic studies courses in all NYC middle and high schools

Problem: Historically, students with marginalized identities have not seen themselves reflected in their school’s curriculum. To provide a more inclusive education, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, in 2019, New York City Department of Education adopted a “Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education” (CR-SE) framework.  As NYC DOE affirms, “studies show that students learning with CR-SE are more active in class; they graduate more often, with better grades, [and] their self-esteem improves.”  However, the Department of Education has not moved quickly enough to adopt substantial and systemic policies that would put CR-SE  into practice. 

Recommendation: The City should fully invest in the Department of Education’s definition of Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education (CR-SE) by creating an Office of CRSE within the Chancellor’s Office and fully funding 1-semester Ethnic Studies courses. The DOE should consult middle and high school teachers, youth, and parents to create the courses. More advanced Ethnic Studies courses should be offered in the high schools and introductory courses should be offered in the middle schools, as started in schools in San Francisco, as reported by T74. CR-SE must begin at an early age for marginalized students to develop a sense of pride in their own identities, and for all students to develop empathy and compassion for the identities of others. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

3C. Train school staff on anti-bias, anti-racist, healing and youth-centered practices

Problem: As reported by New York Daily News, New York City’s then-Chancellor of Schools, Richard Carranza, and Mayor de Blasio allotted $23 million in 2019 towards anti-bias training for educators after advocacy by the Coalition for Educational Justice. While a step in the right direction, funding for the implementation of this training was effectively cut in 2020 due to the pandemic. Anti-bias education within New York City Schools should be a funding priority. 

Recommendation: The City must take greater effort to incorporate training focused on marginalized and underrepresented communities. Over the next three years, the City must host curricular training for educators to develop CR-SE skills and expertise. Training should include anti-bias, anti-racist, trauma-informed and healing-centered practices, as well as disability and gender justice, to ensure stronger support for students of color, LGBTQIA+ youth and youth with disabilities. Additionally, intergenerational leadership and youth safety should be included in DOE employees’ mandatory Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training. The Coalition for Educational Justice also has called on the City to expand training for teachers on pedagogy and teaching practices that reflect culturally responsive education. 

Office: Mayor

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

3D. Implement comprehensive sex education in New York City schools

Problem: According to Gotham Gazette, New York City schools are only required to provide education on HIV/AIDS, and there is no legal requirement for information presented to be medically accurate.  This lack of sexual education fails youth of color, who according to Advocates for Youth, are disproportionately impacted by teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections compared to white youth. Additionally, sex education can result in a better understanding of consent, healthy relationships and sexual boundaries, and even prevent sexual assault in college, according to the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Columbia.

Recommendations: The Department of Education must mandate comprehensive sexual education in schools. A Sexual Health Education Task Force created by Mayor de Blasio released 11 recommendations in 2017 to offer age appropriate comprehensive sex education for all students that is inclusive across various gender and sexuality spectrums, and promotes anti-sexual harassment and pro-consent culture in schools. However, the Mayor and DOE have thus far failed to adopt them. The Mayor should follow the New York City Council’s recently passed resolution that calls upon the Department of Education to enact K-12 sexual education.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

3E. Combat sexual harassment of girls and youth in New York City schools

Problem: According to Girls for Gender Equity (GGE), one in three girls in face a form of sexual harassment at school. These same reports also note the harassment of students who identify as a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. While there have been revisions to the Chancellor’s Regulation to address gender-based violence and harrassment, the outcome of the revisions do not reflect recommendations by education organizers and advocates, and there is still no long-term strategy for school-based sexual harassment/assualt prevention and education. 

Recommendation: The City should immediately implement the Sexual Health Education Task Force recommendations to offer inclusive comprehensive sex education and promote anti-sexual harassment and pro-consent culture in schools. GGE also recommends amending Chancellor’s Regulation A-831 to require training for Sexual Harassment Prevention Liaisons on misogyny, consent, and healthy boundaries, and on supporting LGBTQ and TGNCNB students. Students should be fully informed about their designated Liaison, and when and how to report. GGE further recommends implementing a city-wide prevention strategy through education about consent and comprehensive sexual health for school staff at all levels. Survivors should have access to restorative practices and therapists or counselors, at no cost, to support their healing. 

Office: Mayor

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

3F. Mandate civic education for all students 

Problem: Gotham Gazette reports that New York does not mandate civic education. In 2018, New York City’s Department of Education created the Civics for All initiative to provide NYC students the resources to learn about civics and register to vote, according to We Teach NYC. While the Department of Education rightly states that civic education is “essential part of every student’s core academic program,” very few students are exposed to this curriculum. This year, the City Council reports that $3.8 million was cut from the budget; that money would have gone to materials for the civic engagement curriculum and per session pay.

Recommendation: In 2020, the City cut $3.8 million for supplies and materials from the Civics for All program, according to the City Council. The Civics for All initiative launched in Spring 2018 to strengthen opportunities for students to develop skills and knowledge related to democracy. The City should restore the Civics for All budget, and expand the budget for civic education curriculums to be required for all students, as recommended by the Youth Power Coalition. The curriculum should not just include civic classroom education; it should also include giving students the opportunity to take action through getting involved with community organizations. Civic education should be incorporated into all subjects.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

4) KEEP SCHOOLS PUBLIC

In recent decades, charter schools have become a more ubiquitous part of the City’s education landscape. While many New York City students and their families utilize charter schools, these private entities often receive public resources despite the fact that many public schools face severe budget shortages and a lack of resources, according to DNAinfo. This includes space in public school buildings, and access to student and family data. 

4A. Halt co-locations of charter schools in underutilized buildings

Problem: Co-locating, or combining multiple schools into one building became popular in New York City under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. The two were committed to expanding private charter schools, and, as space in New York City is limited, used co-location as the solution. Unfortunately for the existing public schools and their students, the buildings became “sources of crowding” according to Chalkbeat, and “drains on neighborhood public school resources” according to DNAinfo. New York City is the only district in the whole state that is required to offer free space to charters; elsewhere charters have to pay the school district for rent. 

Recommendation: The State has the authority to approve charters and terms of co-location.  According to Chalkbeat, the New York State Legislature requires New York City to offer rental assistance to charter schools that cannot find space in public buildings. The City should first fight to change the state law that requires the City to offer free space in a Department of Education building, or pay for rent in private space. The City should also lobby the State to keep the charter cap. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Advocacy for State Reform

4B. Restrict student or family recruitment data available to charter schools

Problem: According to the New York Daily News, privately operated charter schools can access and use personal data, including names, addresses, and grades, of children enrolled in public schools, to send families promotional recruitment materials. Students and parents are not able to opt into the sharing of their data or consent to receiving marketing outreach from charter schools. Meanwhile, public schools do not have the resources to directly market their schools to families through mailers and targeted materials. 

Recommendation: The Mayor and the Chancellor must end the practice of sharing personal student or parent data with charter schools. Sharing data therefore puts public schools at a recruitment disadvantage and violates the privacy of families. Student data must be strongly protected and never given away without consent, and the City should not enable charter schools to be advantaged in the recruitment process. 

Office: Mayor

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

5) FULLY FUND EQUITABLE QUALITY EDUCATION

Funding is a consistent issue for New York City schools and deprives marginalized from the comprehensive education they deserve. Students from wealthier families are able to access resources that low-income students of color cannot, adding to school segregation and inequity. These funding and curricular inequalities lead to large educational disparities between affluent privileged students versus marginalized students. While more NYC public school students are going to college, the Research Alliance for New York City Schools reported that poor students were 23 percent less likely to stay in college than wealthy students. New York City must address disproportionate access to technology and academic, enrichment, and multidisciplinary programs, decrease class sizes, and fund capital needs and community schools.

5A. Address disproportionate access to academic enrichment programs

Problem: Advanced Placement (AP) classes, International Baccalaureate Diploma programs, Dual Enrollment partnerships, and other advanced curriculum aid students in graduating and going to college, according to Redefining Ready. Students First NY articulates that more students are graduating from high school, but many are not prepared for college. 

Recommendation: The most recent NYC School Survey Citywide Results show that parents’ top request for their children’s school was stronger enrichment programs. Current funding allows for more advanced courses in wealthy districts. New York Appleseed exposed less funding per student in low-income districts. The Department of Education must invest more in low-income school districts. The Department of Education should include access to college-level classes in School Quality Reviews. Additionally, Chalkbeat reported that fundraising from wealthy and white PTAs worsen the difference in curriculum. The City must also address the funding differences between schools with well-resourced parent-teacher associations (PTAs). 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

5B. Fully and immediately fund Fair Student Funding at 100 percent for all schools

Problem: According to New York Appleseed, Fair Student Funding (FSF) makes up approximately two-thirds of a school’s budget and was instituted in 2007 to make school funding more equitable. It allocates more money to schools based on their number of low-income students, lower achieving students, students with disabilities, and English Language Learners. The Department of Education has over the years tried to increase allocations to the schools which have been receiving less than the full FSF formula amount of funding in order to improve equity among schools. However, according to New York Appleseed, in the 2017-2018 school year, over 78 percent of schools still did not receive the funding that they requested. 

Recommendations: Because the State has reneged on its obligation to fund our schools according to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement, the City has not been able to fund all our schools at 100% of the Fair Student Funding formula.  It is imperative that every school is funded at 100%. To do this, the City should use funding that the State finally approved for equitable Foundation Aid, advocated for years by the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE), according to the Daily News.  Additionally, the DOE should review the recommendations developed by the Fair Student Funding Task Force in 2019  and amend the formula so that schools are prioritized based on need rather than by academic achievement. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

5C. Fully fund the capital needs of all schools

Problem: The Department of Education and the School Construction Authority note that most of our city’s educational buildings are older than a hundred years old and often fall short of modern standards for safety, accessibility, and proper ventilation. The Department of Education does not even have a set standards on proper ventilation. Elevated lead levels are still present in many school buildings, according to the NRDC. Around 80 percent of school buildings are not fully accessible to students with physical disabilities, and thousands of classrooms lack air conditioning, according to Chalkbeat. Additionally, nearly half of public school students attend schools that are enrolled at or above full capacity, according to Class Size Matters. The SCA’s enrollment projections and the Capacity, Enrollment and Utilization reports continue to underestimate the true capacity needs, leading to large class sizes and school overcrowding.

Recommendation: The Mayor and the Council should fully fund the Department of Education and the School Construction Authority’s (SCA) $19.01 billion FY 2020-2024 Capital Plan and work with SCA to ensure that the funds are distributed equitably, and can fund the contractors needed to complete essential projects quickly. The Mayor and Chancellor should work with the Division of School Facilities to assess needs and create processes to improve infrastructure as soon as it is faulty. Information on accessing capital funding should be accessible to parents and principals, including Resolution A funding that comes from Borough Presidents’ and City Council Members’ discretionary allocations. However, the Capital Plan should seek to cover as many capital needs as possible so that no school relies on discretionary funds. The Chancellor should reconvene the Blue Book Working Group to revisit the Blue Book Formula so that our capacity needs are based on small class sizes. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

5D. Expand and increase funding for Community Schools

Problem: According to the Fund for Public Schools, Community Schools were established in 2014 to serve primarily low-income students, homeless students, and students in temporary housing. Through working with Community Based Organizations, Community Schools provide students with academic support, physical and mental health care, after-school enrichment, academic opportunities, and extra meals. The Rand Corporation reports that these supports have translated to higher attendance rates for students in all grades, lower levels of student absenteeism, and less disciplinary issues for younger students. It is critical that we expand the number of community schools so that more students can benefit from the resources they offer. 

Recommendation: Community Schools serve approximately 135,000 students according to the Washington Post, and the Council currently spends $3.8 million to support these schools. To increase the number of Community Schools and the services they are able to offer, the city budget should increase funding for the Community Schools initiative. Additionally, the $3 million cut from Community Schools last year, according to the Daily News, should be immediately restored.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy 

5E. Decrease class sizes 

Problem: City officials’ neglect of the education system has resulted in severely underfunded public schools. According to the Department Of Education (DOE), more than half a million students are packed into underfunded, overutilized schools. The issue of overcrowding goes beyond an increased number of students per classroom; it leads to less opportunity for quality student counseling and special education, promotes teacher and administration burnout, among other factors. In schools where there is space, class sizes can be unacceptably large because of inadequate funding.  In order to reduce class size, there must also be funding to hire a sufficient number of teachers. 

Recommendations: The City must invest heavily into building new schools and expanding existing facilities. The DOE’s school capital plan echoed the January 2016 Amendment’s projection that schools have a seat need of approximately 83,000 new seats. As New Yorkers for Racially Just Public Schools recommends, the City should decrease class sizes to a maximum of 18:1 in elementary schools, 22:1 in middle and high schools with no more than 66 students per teacher. The City should also create a budget line dedicated to hiring teachers with the explicit purpose for reducing class size for the short term and for the long term, reformulate the Fair Student Funding to ensure schools can maintain small class sizes. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

5F. Increase daily access for all students to multidisciplinary classes

Problem: The most recent NYC School Survey Citywide Results show that parents’ top request for improving their children’s school was stronger enrichment programs, including access to art, technology, cooking, life skills, and health and wellness courses. Yet, in the wake of COVID-19, more schools than ever are cutting their partnerships with community organizations due to budget cuts, as per the Arts In Schools 2019-2020 Annual Report. Inequities in access to enrichment programs are driven, in large part, by the vast disparity Chalkbeat reports between the fundraising of PTAs between schools, with some raising millions of dollars in additional funds for schools. 

Recommendations: To tackle the inequity in supplementary school funding and the disparity in access to enrichment programs that comes with it, the Mayor and City Council must work together to increase dedicated funding for partnerships with community organizations through the Department of Education’s budget and discretionary funding citywide. Additionally, the City should increase access to multidisciplinary classes. Additionally, the Council can pass legislation and the Department of Education can change agency policy to address the disparities between PTAs, considering how to redistribute the multimillion dollar PTA fundraising efforts available to wealthier school communities.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

5G. Provide access to current technology to all NYC schools and all NYC students

Problem: In 2014, DeBlasio announced the NYC Internet Master Plan to extend broadband to all low-income New Yorkers, as reported by The City. The administration has not followed through; low-income families struggle to pay for discounted WiFi to keep their students in school during the pandemic, according to Bloomberg. Currently, over 77,000 NYC students do not have access to an iPad, computer, or high speed Internet, as reported by the Brooklyn Paper. Also, City & State reported that at least four homeless shelters are in cell service dead zones, which deprives students in those shelters access to online their schoolwork.

Recommendation: The Department of Education (DOE) must update aging school buildings with the infrastructure for current technology, according to the Center for Urban Future. The DOE must also train New York City public school teachers on technology use in the classroom. The DOE should give laptops to all students, which would help close the homework gap for students without at-home technology access, according to the National Education Association. Also, the DOE must supply homeless students, low-income students, and students living in NYCHA buildings with free at-home high speed Internet, according to the Coalition for the Homeless.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

6) MAKE SCHOOLS TRULY INCLUSIVE 

New York City public schools must provide more expansive support to marginalized youth. Schools can become safer environments by creating more accessible all-gender restrooms, providing free menstrual products, and funding multi-lingual support services for English Language Learners. Hiring more social workers and guaranteeing transportation will support students who are homeless or in foster care. While the City has support services for parenting students, funding must increase to combat the high school dropout rate for teen parents. Lastly, marginalized students often have negative perceptions of schools when their identities are not represented in the teaching staff. All students deserve a safe, supportive, and representative school environment.  

6A. Support LGBTQIA+ students with bathroom access, resources, and support

Problem: New York City schools are not properly equipped to meet the needs of LGBTQIA+ students, leaving students vulnerable to harassment or bullying. The Department of Education has guidelines state students must be provided with restroom facilities consistent with their gender identity. However, many school buildings still have only one all-gender restroom on their entire campus, contributing to more harassment against LGBTQIA+ students. According to GLSEN, LGBTQIA+ students are also vulnerable to pain and dehydration if they do not feel comfortable using the restroom.

Recommendation: The Department of Education can support LGBTQIA+ students by creating more safe and accessible restroom spaces that are inclusive of all people. In addition, the Department of Education must devote funding and resources towards creating Gender and Sexuality Alliances in all schools. Gender and Sexuality Alliances can provide resources and support for LGBTQIA+ youth, leading to lower levels of anti-LGBTQ harassment and violence, according to Vanderbilt University. These policies should be adopted alongside more mental health staff and support in schools, more restorative justice and peer support, an end to punishment around dress code, and an adoption of LGBTQIA+ inclusive sexual education.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

6B. Guarantee middle and high school students free menstrual products

Problem: Without access to menstrual products, many students face stigma, embarrassment, and missed class time during their periods. In 2016, New York City led the country in passing Intro 1128, or Local Law 84, requiring the Department of Education to make menstrual products available for free in bathrooms of schools that serve female students from grades six to twelve. According to the New York State Education Department, a similar law went into effect statewide in 2018. However, neither of these broad mandates include enforcement measures, nor do they guarantee students access outside of the bathrooms of physical school buildings. 

Recommendation: The City should strengthen Intro 1128 now known as Local Law 84 to make sure that menstrual products are getting to the students who need them. Anecdotally, advocates have heard from students that the Department of Education has supplied low quality products in only “female-specified” bathrooms that run out fairly quickly. The City should require reporting on the regular stock and use of free menstrual products and hold schools that do not meet legal requirements accountable. The language of the original legislation should also be updated to specifically guarantee access for people who menstruate that do not identify as female. Finally, access to free menstrual products should expand beyond school bathrooms, including at home.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, City Legislation

6C. Support homeless students 

Problem: According to the New York Times, about one out of ten New York City students is experiencing homelessness as of fall of 2020, the highest number of homeless students since the Great Depression. The City pledged $12 million on school-based support for homeless students and has placed 100 social workers in schools with high populations of students in temporary housing through the program “Bridging the Gap,” as Chalkbeat reports. Under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, according to the NYS Education Department, students have the right to enroll in school immediately and to choose between the school district of the student’s current housing and their school of origin. 

Recommendation: The Department of Education has 20 vacant positions that support students in temporary housing, according to Chalkbeat; these should be immediately filled. Advocates for Children of NY recommends that the city allocate $6.5 million to hire 50 DOE social workers in shelters, $1 million to create a deputy chancellor’s office for highly mobile students, and $4.5 million to hire field support center directors for highly mobile students. Furthermore, DOE should train a subset of staff members at each school on the Mckinney-Vento Act, drawing resources from the National Center on Homeless Education and other advocates and youth organizations.  The Daily News reports the city received a court order to finish installing wifi in all family homeless shelters by the end of August 2021; it must follow through on this. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

6D. Guarantee transportation so students in foster care can remain in their school

Problem: The New York City Department of Education notes the importance of providing transportation for its students, but the same sentiment is not kept when addressing children in foster care. School buses will only transport students in foster care to and from school along already existing routes. Processing requests often takes a long time, adding unnecessary stress to these children’s lives. Children in foster care who have been separated from their families deserve stability in their school loves. Many students thus change schools on top of the emotional trauma they already face. 

Recommendation: Providing students in foster care with the necessary transportation in order to remain in their schools is a basic service the City should offer students. The budget for school transportation services must accommodate students in foster care systems. An increase in the budget for transportation services would provide a greater outlet for those who are not along the normal routes created by the districts.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

6E. Increase the Living for the Young Family through Education (LYFE) slots 

Problem: Throughout New York City, many students, especially girls of color, are denied access to public education because they are pregnant or have children. Child Trends reported that only 53% of young women who gave birth receive a high school diploma. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reported that Latinx teens are three times more likely to become pregnant than their white peers. The need for resources and advocacy for pregnant and parenting parents is pressing. The Department of Education has failed to provide adequate and effective school-based support for pregnant and parenting teens. One program that does support student parents called Living for the Young Family Through Education (LYFE) faces severe budget cuts.

Recommendation: The City must increase the LYFE slots offered to parenting students; and implement comprehensive training for school personnel on the legal rights of pregnant and parenting students. Administered by District 79, LYFE offers child care services, academic advice, and advocacy to help parenting students graduate. However, underfunded programs like LYFE are largely inaccessible and many parenting students cannot afford to transport their children to locations outside of their school. The City should increase the number of LYFE slots offered to parenting students; and include any training for school personnel on the legal rights of pregnant and parenting students in training, already offered to school staff.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

6F. Fund language and support services for immigrant students and families 

Problem: English Language Learning students are one of the largest high school dropout demographics according to the New York State Education Department. The City does offer some translation and interpretation mechanisms for students, but sessions for students are individualized, meaning that they are not able to communicate with their peers. This separation can exacerbate alienation amongst immigrant students adapting to new environments. 

Recommendation: The City must fully fund and expand the translation, interpretation, and support services available for English language learners and immigrant families. The City must also provide language justice training for teachers, administrative, and support staff in schools. The City must integrate its translation and interpretation support into the curriculum in order for students to fully be a part of their school communities including dual language programs. These programs must expand beyond the 9 different languages currently offered by the Department of Education.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

6G. Recruit, support, and retain educators of color, and TGNCNB teachers

Problem: According to Chalkbeat, about 42 percent of NYC educators are people of color, while over 80 percent of students enrolled in New York City public schools are Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, or Asian.  Furthermore, transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary (TGNCNB) educators are vulnerable to harassment from their superiors and coworkers, leaving them with no support, and making schools a less safe place for TGNCNB students. 

Recommendation: The New York City Department of Education (DOE) must devote more resources towards recruiting, supporting, and retaining educators of color, transgender educators, and gender non-conforming educators. DOE must also incorporate the appropriate cultural competency practices as an employer to make these spaces safe for educators with marginalized identities, and protect educators from harassment and discrimination.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

7) INTEGRATE SCHOOLS AND END DISCRIMINATORY SCREENING

New York City schools are some of the most racially and socioeconomically segregated in the country. The Century Foundation states that school integration has academic, civic, social-emotional, and economic benefits for students. These benefits include reducing racial achievement gaps, reducing racial bias, and encouraging more equitable access to resources. Yet, the City has hesitated to engage in meaningful reform to integrate New York City schools. The Mayor and Chancellor must adopt the School Diversity Advisory Group’s recommendations, which include eliminating discriminatory screening. In addition, the City must end Gifted and Talented programs and the use of the Specialized High School Admissions Test, and advocate for the end of high-stakes testing.

7A. Implement initial School Diversity Advisory Group (SDAG) recommendations

Problem: In 2014, 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education declared segregation unconstitutional, UCLA found that New York State had the most segregated schools in the United States. In February 2019, the School Diversity Advisory Group, commissioned by the City, released its first set of 67 detailed recommendations on promoting school diversity. According to the NY Daily News, Mayor de Blasio announced in June 2019 that the City would adopt 62 of the School Diversity Advisory Group’s 67 recommendations, but he left substantial recommendations under review or rejected them outright.

Recommendation: The Mayor and the Chancellor must adopt the remaining recommendations from the School Diversity Advisory Group’s first set of recommendations that remain unadopted. This would involve establishing a position of a Chief Integration Officer to oversee the entire process of desegregating our schools, creating accelerated enrichment programs for elementary schools, and further funding school districts creating integration plans. Additionally, the Mayor and Chancellor must actively commit to the “Goals, Metrics, and Accountability” recommendations. The Department of Education should also immediately implement the School Diversity Advisory Group recommendations pertaining to student empowerment. 

Office: Mayor

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

7B. Follow SDAG recommendations on inclusionary admissions methods

Problem: Following the release of their first 67 recommendations in February 2019, the School Diversity Advisory Group released 25 more recommendations in its August 2019 follow up report, Making the Grade II: New Programs for Better Schools. The report details how to transition to a more equitable model of programming and admissions through eliminating discriminatory admission screening and Gifted and Talented programs. These programs have played a key role in maintaining segregation and excluding many students from a high quality education.

Recommendation: The Mayor must accept all 25 of the recommendations in the School Diversity Advisory Group’s second report. According to NY1, the Mayor has recently taken steps to eliminate the testing of four-year-olds in relation to Gifted and Talented programs. The next Mayor and Council should continue the process of dismantling these programs along the lines of the School Diversity Advisory Group recommendations. Each of the 25 recommendations work in tandem to dismantle screens, Gifted and Talented programs, and related segregationist education policy. The City should not adopt these recommendations piecemeal; instead, the Mayor and Council should adopt the recommendations comprehensively and immediately.

Office: Mayor 

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

7C. End the Specialized High School Admissions Test

Problem: New York City currently has eight specialized high schools that use scores from the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) as the sole criteria for admitting students. Due to the segregationist nature of high stakes testing, these schools are mostly white and non-Black. For example, Stuyvesant High School admitted 895 freshmen in 2019, but only seven were Black according to The New York Times. According to Teens Take Charge, only 6 percent of specialized high school students are Latinx, and only 4 percent are Black, despite making up 42 percent and 26 percent of all New York City public school students, respectively. 

Recommendation: The Mayor must direct the Department of Education to immediately end the use of the SHSAT in the admissions processes of the five specialized high schools under the City’s control. The other three schools, Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech, currently have their admissions procedures set by the Hecht-Calandra Act, a State law that requires them to use SHSAT scores as the sole factor for admitting students. The Mayor must work with the State Legislature to repeal this law. It is critical that this law is repealed, and not simply replaced with another State-mandated, separate admissions system. Jurisdiction over the admissions processes for these schools must return to the City. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Advocacy for State Reform

7D. Abolish the use of high-stakes testing

Problem: Many school communities are growing increasingly concerned at costs of high-stakes testing on children and youth. According to USA Today, although there has been an increased focus on high-stakes testing, test scores have roughly stayed the same over the last decade and the achievement gap has widened. Washington Post reports that curriculum has been turned into pervasive test prep, instead of meaningful, culturally and developmentally appropriate pedagogy. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development further reports that test scores are not representative of good teaching or learned information. In fact, according to The Hechinger Report, New York City schools that skip standardized tests have higher graduation rates. 

Recommendation: The Mayor should seek for the State to request a waiver from high-stakes testing and a halt to the closure or State takeover of schools deemed by the State as poorly performing purely on testing data. The goal should be to end high-stakes testing and permanently replace it with consortium schools standards and the “opportunity-to-learn” framework as defined by the National Council of Teachers of English. The Mayor should also encourage families to opt out of standardized testing and comply with the City Council Resolution 0149-2018 by not punishing students, parents, or school staff for children opting out of State exams. In this vein, the City should advocate for a lift the cap on the number of consortium schools and allow elementary schools to adopt performance-based assessment models in place of NYS tests, as described by Stanford University. This includes decoupling state tests from school evaluations, teacher assessments, and tenure decisions. Communities should provide input to create better forms of accountability without high-stakes testing. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Advocacy for State Reform

8) PROVIDE UNIVERSAL FULL DAY EDUCATION OPTIONS, FROM 3K TO GRADUATION

EarlyLearn, 3-K for All, Pre-K for All, and afterschool programs provide families with educational programming and part-time childcare. According to the National Education Association, early childhood programs result in students being more prepared academically in later grades and being more likely to graduate on time from high school. Additionally, after school programs provide a safe, adult-supervised environment for students to develop, and they improve both academic performance and social-emotional learning, according to Youth.Gov. If made full day, many programs could also have the added benefit of becoming affordable childcare options as well for working parents who otherwise have to take off work or spend substantial parts of their paycheck for other forms of childcare. 

8A. Provide EarlyLearn and full day childcare options for children 0-4 

Problem: According to the Department of Education, EarlyLearn programs include early care and education services and are offered all year round for up to ten hours a day for children ages zero to four. The Department of Education also states that the programs are both center-based and home-based and free or at minimal costs to families. However, Center for New York City Affairs reports that approximately half of the childcare providers meet EarlyLearn requirements, and believe that home visits should be better utilized to improve the quality of childcare. 

Recommendation: Center for New York City Affairs at The New School states numerous ways in which EarlyLearn can be improved. Instead of implementing practices that are for more structured child care centers, home-based child care practices should be based on other home-based programs. In addition, to better improve the feedback that child care providers receive, expectations for child care providers’ support staff guidelines should be clarified and ample resources should be provided. These programs should be expanded to serve all families in need of this support. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

8B. Offer universal full day education options for 3-K and Pre-K

Problem: According to the Department of Education, all eligible four-year old children are guaranteed a seat in the City’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten program. However, The City reports that students with disabilities have not been given fair access to Pre-K programs, with lack of funding for community-based preschools a major contributor to the issue. Separately, while families across the city can apply to 3-K programs, the number of seats offered by the Department of Education is limited. This was exacerbated by a $43 million budget cut to 3-K for All in 2020, which halted the program’s expansion in four districts, according to Politico.

Recommendation: In order to expand critical early childhood education programs, 3-K for All should increase its number of seats so that it will have the capacity to serve all eligible NYC students with full day options. Additionally, in order to increase students with disabilities’ access to Pre-K programs, the city should work to expand seats for smaller, special education-specific classes, as outlined by The City, and fund community-based preschools running the program.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

8C. Offer universal after-school programming

Problem: After school programs both support the positive development of young people and provide affordable child care after the school day and during the summer months. According to the City’s Independent Budget Office, in 2015, Mayor de Blasio expanded after school programming for middle school students via the Comprehensive After School System (COMPASS) program, guaranteeing a seat for every middle school student who wanted one within two years. However, the Mayor did not make the same investments for elementary school students, nor did the City support year-round programming during the summer months. Thus, only 122,575 of the 1.1 million students in New York City schools are served through COMPASS, according to the Mayor’s Office

Recommendation: The City Council should pass Int 1100-2018 to establish a universal afterschool program and fund it through the City budget process. Funding must be increased for afterschool programming so that every public school student who needs an afterschool program has access to one. In particular, programming should be prioritized for students with disabilities, students in temporary housing, students in foster care, and students with limited financial means. Programs must be funded at a per-student rate that allows for comprehensive, high-quality programming for students and livable wages for the staff working with them. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, City Legislation

8D. Offer enrichment, advancement, and credit accumulation through alternative and night school options

Problem: Students who are struggling in school and in threat of not graduating in time have limited options to earn the credits they need to graduate middle school, high school, or get a high school diploma or a technical degree. Many students complain about over dependence on computer based instruction for credit recovery, and lack of programming accessible in small schools with narrow course variety. The City offers some options for students, but these options could be bolstered and expanded upon.

Recommendation: The City should offer a robust night school option for all middle or high school students interested or in need of such programming to provide opportunities for electives, ethnic studies, language classes, computer science classes and a chance to take missing required courses and regents prep classes. This would allow motivated kids to advance, and be on route to recouping a credit and still graduate on time. It would also allow immigrant students of an older age a chance to catch up and get more support.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

Students should be given resources in order to be successful in post-K-12, in college and/or through their careers. These resources should start in high schools, where Career and Technical Education (CTE), work-based learning, and technical training programs can provide a smoother transition to post K-12 educational opportunities. In addition, students should have the opportunity to attend CUNY for free, with the option to receive affordable childcare. 

9A. Expand Career, Technical Education, and Work-Based Learning Opportunities

Problem: Even though New York City high school students are graduating at record high rates, according to the Mayor’s Office, college readiness is still a major issue. Schools are failing Black and Latinx New Yorkers, who have lower degree attainment rates than their white counterparts, according to the Center for an Urban Future. This is exacerbated by a lack of free and affordable college and career preparation, and budget cuts to such programming. According to the New York Daily News, in 2020, state officials changed eligibility requirements for funding related to career and technical education (CTE) programs, effectively cutting this funding for CTE programs across 61 city public schools. 

Recommendation: To address racial and class disparities in college readiness and attainment, the City should expand work-based learning opportunities and technical training programs like New York City Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH). P-TECH offers students accelerated high school, early college, and career-focused preparation. The majority of students in P-TECH are Black, Latinx, and come from low-income families. According to the MDRC, P-TECH students earned more credits, and 42 percent of P-TECH students passed the ELA Regents exam, 17 percent higher than comparable non-P-Tech students. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

9B. Provide Free Universal Child Care for CUNY students

Problem: Affordable child care is frequently a challenge for parents seeking to complete or further their college education. Since many CUNY students are working at the same time as they are attending school, classes are often in the evening or on weekends when many child care centers are not operating. CUNY already provides low-cost childcare for enrolled students, but availability and programmatic offerings vary by campus, and cost may still be a barrier for some students.

Recommendation: In order to ensure that child care is not a barrier to any parents getting a CUNY education, the City should make CUNY students an eligible category for child care subsidies, allowing them to enroll children in community based child care centers and family child care homes. The City should also aid CUNY in partnering with community based organizations to provide child care on site or near CUNY campuses that have limited options.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

9C. Fund city-level CUNY programs and advocate for free CUNY

Problem: According to Free CUNY, the lack of financial aid for CUNY students leads to a drop out rate of 50 percent and a non-completion rate of over 70 percent in Associate degree programs. While New York State began offering the Excelsior Scholarship in 2018 to provide tuition-free college at CUNY or SUNY for students with a household income less than $125,000, The Center for Urban Future exposed that only 3.2 percent of the students who applied to the Excelsior Scholarship received the funding and the strict requirements bar part-time students from the scholarship program. In fiscal year 2021, the City cut CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) by $20 million.

Recommendation: New Yorkers should be able to attend college without the burden of student debt. The next mayor should increase funding to CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), which offers free metro cards, tutoring, counseling, and other services for low-income students. MDRC reported that ASAP doubled the graduation rate for students in remedial courses. The next mayor must also advocate for free public colleges for all at the state-level, and fully fund city-level programming at CUNY. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, Advocacy for State Reform

10) EXPAND DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION FOR YOUTH

In New York City, young people, who are most impacted by the educational system, have the least power in determining its policy. Students have only one, non-voting seat on Community Education Councils, and just two high school and no middle school students have a place on the School Leadership Teams. There are no students on the citywide Panel for Educational Policy. It is critical that New York City public school students of all ages have a voice in decisions being made for and about them. Young people’s voices must be represented across all age groups, school classes, socioeconomic experiences, and school districts. These young leaders must not only be able to advocate their positions and share their experience but be able to vote on all matters affecting them and their peers.

10A. Empower youth voting, running for, and serving on Community Education Councils 

Problem: Community Education Councils (CECs) are bodies in each district that advise the chancellor and the Panel for Educational Policy, review educational programs, and improve student achievement. Of the eleven members, only one is a student, and it is mandated for that student to be a high school senior. Despite being most impacted by decisions made in the CEC, the singular student is not eligible to vote. Thus, youth are not able to adequately advocate their positions and share their experiences, or vote on all matters affecting them and their peers. Students are appointed by the superintendent as per the State law.

Recommendation: City should advocate for state law to change, as state law stipulates that a high school senior, serving on a student government, and that the student member has no vote. The City should advocate for more than one seat, voting eligible, designated for students. The voting age and running age for the CECs should also be lowered to 14 so more students are able to run for this position. The Youth Power Platform advocates for mandatory student seats at the middle and high school level, and removing the one-student cap, so young people’s voices can be represented across more age groups. Youth Power Coalition also recommends the City provide civic education to educate young people about how the CEC works and provide training for adult staff and CEC members on intergenerational leadership.  

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, Advocacy for State Reform

10B. Invest in and expand youth decision-making in participatory budgeting

Problem: In 2018, according to the Participatory Budgeting Project, the City’s participatory budgeting in all New York City high schools allots at least $2,000 for each school to spend on projects to improve students’ quality of life. In high schools, the Department of Education states that proposals to allocate the funds are voted on by the student body, staff members, and parents and guardians. It’s an important avenue for students to have a say in their school, but the limited funding and frequent budget cuts prevent the program from meeting its full potential. 

Recommendation: The City should allow a much larger proportion of school funding to be determined through participatory budgeting, as $2000 per schools is a tiny fraction of a school’s budget. Additionally, since students are most affected by budgets, youth representatives with voting power in the Community Education Councils or School Leadership Teams could be involved in all the yearly budgeting for the Department of Education during the City’s budget cycle, not just participatory budgeting.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

10C. Mandate student members on the School Leadership Teams

Problem: According to the Department of Education, School Leadership Teams (SLTs) work to develop and implement school policies. Since SLT decisions directly impact students, it is critical that students are involved. However, according to the Chancellor’s Regulation A-655, high school students are only guaranteed a minimum of two seats on the SLT, and middle school students are not required to have any representation. School Leadership Teams are under the state education commissioner’s regulation as well as the state law.  

Recommendation: The City should advocate for state law to change, and the Department of Education should amend section 3 part C2 of the Chancellor’s Regulation A-655 (CR A-655), to increase the minimum number of students to at least two student positions for middle school SLTs and at least four positions for high school SLTs. According to Brotherhood Sister Sol, the City should also amend section 3 part E of CR A-655 to require that the SLT secretary email students with the minutes and decisions for transparency. Brotherhood Sister Sol also recommends the City ensure that student voices are representative of student demographics and that students are supported when running for and serving on the SLT, including accommodations around class schedules and workload.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, Advocacy for State Reform

10D. Make students voting members of the City’s Panel for Education Policy

Problem: New York City schools’ Panel for Education Policy (PEP) consists of fifteen appointed members.  Each borough president appoints one member to the panel, the presidents of Community Education Councils appoint one member, and the mayor appoints the remaining nine.  Many of the appointees to these positions lack extensive experience and qualification in education. Although the policies that the PEP creates have a large impact on students, students do not get a vote on the panel. Instead, only two students can participate as non voting advisory members. 

Recommendation: The City should advocate for state law to change, and the Department of Education should amend the Chancellor’s Regulation Section 1.3 to make students voting members on the PEP. The perspectives of students in the City’s public schools are important in creating just and equitable policy, as they interact with the City’s curriculum, teaching staff, and physical spaces on a regular basis. Including students on the panel will help to contribute to a sense of accountability for adult members of the panel, and assist in centering policy decisions on students from underserved and marginalized communities. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, Advocacy for State Reform

10E. Enable students to vote for the Deputy Chancellor of the Department of Education

Problem: The Deputy Chancellor of the Department of Education is responsible for leading the growth and development of public schools in the City of New York. The position is not elected, but appointed by the Mayor of the City. The initiatives that the Deputy Chancellor spearheads have a deep impact on the conditions of all City schools, as the Chancellor plays a large role in advising the Chancellor and the Mayor, who control the school system. 

Recommendation: Students should be given the ability to vote for the Deputy Chancellor of the Department of Education. Since the initiatives that the Chancellor undertakes have a large impact on education policy, students must be able to vote on candidates for the office in order to ensure that they have a voice in their education. 

Office: Mayor

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

10F. Report on Youth Power and Leadership

Problem: To create an environment in which youth have power, schools should be transparent about ways that students can gain power and leadership opportunities, and students should be able to provide feedback about the power they are given. Currently, the Department of Education’s NYC School Survey and 2019-20 School Quality Snapshot do not survey on youth power and voice in each school. 

Recommendations: The Youth Power Coalition recommends each school conduct an annual Youth Power Report, which would survey students about youth decision-making and leadership opportunities to influence topics such as school budget and school climate. The report should aim to uplift the voices of students of color, low income students, students in temporary housing, and students with learning differences or those who are neurodivergent. Based on the results, each school should create clear steps on how to improve student power. The Department of Education should ensure that this report and all school information is written with understandable language and translated into multiple languages. 

Office: Mayor

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

11) EMPOWER PARENTS OF COLOR AS AUTHENTIC PARTNERS IN PUBLIC EDUCATION

Parents, grandparents, legal guardians, and caregivers play crucial roles in a child’s education. Some structures exist that enable parents to participate in decision making in education, such as Parent Teacher Associations, School Leadership Teams, District Leadership Teams, Citywide and Community Education Councils. However, the state law and regulations that establish these structures are not interpreted by the DOE to give real decision making power to parents. It is especially important that white more affluent parents are not able to game the system, and that the voices of Black and Latinx parents and parents of color are uplifted, as the school system is made up of about 85 percent students of color. Any policy around parent empowerment must be considered with racial equity in mind; otherwise it is not worth doing. 

11A. Elevate parents’ roles in school governance structure at all levels

Problem:  Parents bring expertise to and are critical partners in our school system. The involvement of youth and parents in our school system, however, has depended on the whims and temperaments of the Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, since the beginning of mayoral control. In the current system, white and class-privileged parents also find ways to get what they want through political or other forms of power and influence, but the majority of the parents, Black and Latinx parents and parents of color, are left voiceless.  

Recommendation: Under Mayoral control, the Chancellor is appointed by the Mayor without any input from stakeholders. The City should implement a Chancellor selection system that engages parents, teachers, administrators and students by hosting a forum of top candidates. The Boston Herald reports that school systems elsewhere have successfully implemented such a process. The City must assess the ways in which white and wealthy parents are able to game the system, and build structures that do not continue to privilege these parents. 

Office: Mayor

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

11B. Strengthen the School Leadership Team by empowering parent members

Problem: Although every school is required to have a School Leadership Team composed of teachers, administrators and parents, many schools currently do not have one or the existing Team does not function as intended.  Many principals do not understand the function of the School Leadership Team or worse dictate its roles and work. Parents in the school community are often not informed of their role in the school’s educational plan and budget development.  Often, the budget is not shared with the members let alone school community. Those who serve on the School Leadership Team may lack adequate training to exercise their rights.  

Recommendation: The City should require every principal to undergo training on the role of the School Leadership Team with a particular focus on parent and student members’ role and consensus decision making. The Chancellor’s Regulation A-655 should be amended to disallow principals from chairing the School Leadership Team. Superintendents must also be committed to ensuring that the Team in their jurisdiction are functional and authentic. The City should hold principals and superintendents accountable for non-functioning or dysfunctional School Leadership Teams. The Department of Education must also prioritize informing parents and developing parent leaders and offer ongoing training as well as technical support for parent members of the School Leadership Team. Chancellor’s Regulation A-655 should be amended to clearly require that the School Leadership Teams follow the Open Meetings Law.

Office: Mayor

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

11C. Engage members of the Citywide and Community Education Councils 

Problem: The Department of Education by state law must consult with Citywide and Community Education Councils, which are mainly composed of parents, on a variety of policies and initiatives. However, “consultation” is not collaboration and too often Citywide and Community Education Councils are merely presented with proposals in their final stages. Furthermore, resolutions passed by Citywide and Community Education Councils often go unacknowledged and unanswered.  

Recommendation: The Department of Education should create a formal process for collaboration with Citywide and Community Education Councils on policy development, including responding to resolutions in a manner that leads to collaboration. Such a process was initiated in recent years with the Division of District Planning but must be implemented with authenticity and expanded to all policy areas. The City must assess the representation of Citywide and Community Education Councils, and ensure that these Councils are truly representative of the school district in gender and race.

Office: Mayor

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

12) SUPPORT STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES

New York City schools hyper-marginalizes and profoundly segregates students with disabilities who are low-income, Black, and/or Latinx. District 75, which, according to the New York State Education Department, aims to provide “highly specialized instructional support for students with significant challenges.” This district largely consists of students of color and families below the poverty line, at 87 percent and 86 percent respectively, and has a high proportion of English Language Learners, at 23 percent, according to the New York State Education DepartmentChalkbeat reported that among the nearly 25,000 young people with disabilities concentrated in high-need school communities, and the 227,000 with disabilities being served overall, last year, more than 40,000 received only a fraction of the services they were owed — or none at all. All students with disabilities deserve the instruction, services and supports it is their right to receive.

12A. Provide students with disabilities adequate instruction, services, and support

Problem: The backlog in special education evaluations, the lack of effective transition planning, and ongoing shortage of qualified instructional and support staff further marginalizes students with disabilities. During the pandemic, this gap has only deepened. UFT has identified a need for over 4,500 additional instructional personnel for remote learning for students with significant disabilities, many of whom are also at high risk for severe cases of COVID-19. Some youth are receiving an hour or less of live instruction each school day, and many are struggling with transient staffing.

Solution: The City must hire additional administrators to clear the backlog in special education evaluations and undertake a comprehensive search for new teachers and paraprofessionals, especially bilingual providers, emphasizing the need to create a trauma-informed and racially representative staff. The City should also fund related services to ensure wraparound support for young people with disabilities. The City should also provide all students with disabilities with the transition support required by law to prepare them for life after K-12 education, such as financial literacy, independent living skills, and college planning.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

12B. Require inclusion of students with disabilities in school activities and events

Problem: Students with disabilities are left out of beneficial and important school programming, activities, and events, leaving them further isolated and disconnected from services and the school community. This is because DOE consistently lacks the staff, accommodations, or accessibility infrastructure for students with disabilities to engage in school programming outside the typical K-12 education. Disability Matters contextualizes the exclusion of disabled youth from all-school programming like assemblies, concerts, field trips, and especially graduation and step-up ceremonies within a longer history of ableist marginalization.

Recommendation: The City must require the inclusion of students with disabilities in all existing school programming, school and extracurricular activities, and events. DOE should provide a preschool special education classroom seat for every child who needs one. The City should fund related services programs in schools so that parents are not forced to seek those services through other outside contractors or out of the district. The City should also expand specialized programs such as ASD Nest and Horizon, which is a NYU-DOE collaborative initiatives which provide professional development and on-site consultation on best practices working with autistic populations. The City should tailor these offerings for bilingual or ELL communities as appropriate, and target expansion in low-income communities of color.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

12C. End the criminalization of students with disabilities

Problem: The City’s overuse of punitive disciplinary measures targets young people for behavioral manifestations of their disabilities and contributes to a hostile, segregated, environment for all young people. According to the National Council on Disability, students with disabilities account for a disproportionate number of students disciplined, suspended, expelled and arrested compared to peers without a disability. 

Recommendation: The City must substantially invest in integrated co-teaching (ICT) and other evidence-supported mechanisms of integrating the disability community into general education, in keeping with the city’s burden explicated in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to educate disabled youth in the “least restrictive environment.” The City should train educators in therapeutic crisis intervention and ban the use of restraints and seclusion in instances of behavioral crisis with an explicit policy in Chancellor’s Regulations or through city legislation, barring the most extreme circumstances. Further, the City must invest in restorative justice program development and in curricular components that support positive and access-centered intervention — not punitive exclusion — for students with disabilities, especially those with emotional disturbances and limited English language or general verbal communicative proficiency. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy