Home News NYC could cut shelter-based education staff as migrant, homeless population surges

NYC could cut shelter-based education staff as migrant, homeless population surges

A shelter program that connects migrant families and other homeless children to education services in New York City is in jeopardy, potentially hampering the ability for tens of thousands of students to get to school.

Funding for 100 shelter-based coordinators — who find appropriate schools and programs for families, resolve barriers to attendance and organize busing — will end in June unless lawmakers take action, advocates warned in a new brief Thursday.

“It is unthinkable that funding for shelter-based community coordinators is in jeopardy at a time of
such tremendous need,” said Jennifer Pringle, director of students in temporary housing at Advocates for Children.

The staffers “have provided students and families with life-changing support,” Pringle continued, “and the city urgently needs to identify a new funding source to ensure the continuity of their work.”

More than 40,800 students spent at least some of last school year living in a shelter, up 39% from the year before as dozens of new emergency shelters for migrants cropped up across the city, according to the brief.

While the coordinator’s role was created before the influx of migrant families, most positions were left vacant until the middle of last school year. Since then, staffers have helped mitigate enrollment delays and school disruptions from the city’s 60-day family shelter-limit policy. They organized donations, scheduled vaccine appointments and launched English classes for parents with a nearby elementary school.

At other homeless shelters, the report included examples of staff who organized a pizza party for students who met attendance goals or secured laundry for a child who avoided school because of his dirty clothes.

Brooklyn mom Anzhela Mordyga tried enrolling her 8-year-old son at a school near the shelter, but said she was told there was no space. She turned to the coordinator, who quickly helped enroll her son in classes and after-school programming that Mordyga cited as the “only reason” she, as a single mom, can work and move out of the shelter.

“If I have any questions, she’s the go-to,” Mordyga said of the coordinator. “I would be lost without her.”

Dozens of migrants/immigrants families are seen arriving from Texas at the Port Authority Bus Terminal early Wednesday September 6, 2023. Accordingly to activist Power Malu from the organization Artists, Athletes and Activists New York City has removed the MTA buses from transporting immigrants from the bus terminal to the Roosevelt hotel Processing Center forcing the activists to hire Uber, Lift mini vans to transport the immigrants. (Luiz C. Ribeiro for NY Daily News)
Migrant families are seen arriving from Texas at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on Sept. 6. (Luiz C. Ribeiro for New York Daily News)

During 2021-22, the most recent school year with available data, 72% of students in shelter were chronically absent, compared to 39% of their classmates with a stable place to call home.

“I wanted my son to stay in his same school while we were going through our housing struggles,” Ms. Lopez, a mom of a second grader, said in the report, “but they placed us in a shelter in another borough and we went through hell and back getting there every day — it took three different trains.”

The coordinator “knew what to do to get my son busing,” she said. “If she hadn’t been there, my son would have had his school taken away from him on top of everything else.”

The majority of staffers were hired last school year with pandemic-era federal stimulus that will expire this summer. A quarter of positions receive city funding omitted from Mayor Adams’ preliminary budget plan.

All in, the program faces a $12.3 million budget shortfall, according to the City Council, which this week answered Adams’ proposal with a call to permanently fund for all 100 positions.

The Education Department pointed the finger at the last administration for using temporary dollars to fund long-term programs, but did not commit to funding the coordinators going forward.

“Our shelter-based coordinators provide critical resources and supports to our young people in temporary housing,” said Education Department spokeswoman Jenna Lyle. “We are extremely grateful for the stimulus funding that we used to support a range of programs and roles that support student wellbeing, especially as we continue to respond to the ongoing migrant crisis.”


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