The constant influx of migrant families, and subsequent increased student enrollment, alongside the disparity in funding in public school programs in Mayor Eric Adams’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget, has raised concerns from Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), an organization devoted to safeguarding access to education for children.
The AFC recently issued a brief for the public with three distinct demands directed at Adams’s new FY2024 budget: first, aiding the large influx of immigrants enrolled in school since last year: second, extending funding to Promise NYC, a government-subsidized childcare and early education program for low-income families, primarily for undocumented children who might be ruled out from traditional schooling; and third, creating more services to support English Language Learners (ELL) programs at transfer schools.
Relative to immigrant families, the AFC reported that the city’s public school system enrolled more than 18,000 new students in temporary housing. The organization determined that immigrant student services are increasingly essential, due to the population of high school-age students increasing by 76.5 percent in March 2023 compared to March 2022.
The brief also reported that nearly 42 percent of students in New York City public schools live in primarily non-English–speaking households. Paired with U.S. Census information that finds thousands of students whose parents do not speak English fluently, many of the same families lack access to stable internet connection—access that provides crucial information about their children’s schools.
The organization said the city provided $4 million in the previous two years for immigrant family outreach that addressed language barriers through community-based organizations (CBOs), and that this funding does not exist in the coming fiscal year budget.
The AFC also said that the Promise NYC program, which mainly helps young children regardless of their immigration status, will expire at the end of June. The program, subsidized by the city and run by four CBOs partnered with the city, has helped more than 600 children.
“It would be unconscionable to pull the rug out from under the hundreds of immigrant families who are currently benefiting from this program; if anything, the City should be increasing funding to meet the demand,” the brief read.
Rita Rodriguez-Engberg, director of AFC’s Immigrant Students’ Rights Project, said removing such a program would cause cascading failures for children and parents. Parents lacking affordable childcare options could lose employment options to care for their children full-time, resulting in less income and less engagement for their children, on top of their asylum or other immigration status.
While the AFC wants a $20 million investment for the program in the upcoming budget, the New York City Council urged the administration to reinstate the $10 million in previous funding to Promise NYC in its Preliminary Budget Response in May.
A spokesperson for the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) said the initiative achieved its objective of enrolling 600 children and is working to address the problem further.
“We are very appreciative of the work done by the four CBOs. Through the budget process, we are working with the Council, the Mayor’s Office, and (Office of Management and Budget) (OMB) to determine the future of the program,” the statement read. “ACS is in discussions with OMB, the Mayor’s Office, and the City Council about the future of this program and we look forward to the outcome of the budget negotiations.”
The statement read that while the ACS does not keep a waitlist for families, it is aware that its partners still have interest in the program from families.
The final demand from the AFC was a $3 million investment in English Language Learning (ELL) programs in current transfer schools. Transfer schools give those ages 16–21 who dropped out or fell behind on credits in high school a chance to earn their diplomas.
According to the AFC, the current five ELL transfer schools with sufficient support staff for older immigrant students primarily serve lower Manhattan. There are 40 other transfer schools in the city but those lack support, especially for ELL students. This centralization of schools also doesn’t align with where these recent immigrant students live—many are in the outskirts of Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn.
The organization also stated that approximately 3,015 immigrant students did receive diplomas from their home countries and were not currently enrolled in a school.
Rodriguez-Engberg said the points raised in this brief address immediate concerns regarding Adams’s executive budget, and the organization hopes to work with the city to set these demands into action to help families in need.
“Investments in immigrant students and families are investments in the future of New York City, and right now, the need is greater than ever,” said Rodriguez-Engberg. “This year’s budget must restore funding for programs that are on the chopping block, and ensure schools have the resources they need to support older newcomer youth.”