Protecting and Restoring Funding to NYC Educational Programs Must be Prioritized Now

Testimony & Public Comments

March 18, 2024

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On Monday, March 18, Policy and Advocacy Associates Juan Diaz, Caitlyn Passaretti, and Jenny Veloz along with Associate Executive Director of Policy and Advocacy Alice Bufkin provided testimony to the New York City Council on the FY25 Preliminary Budget at the Education Committee Oversight Hearing. Caitlyn Passaretti delivered the testimony on behalf of CCC. This testimony includes budget recommendations that ensure an equitable education for all students across New York City and reject proposed cuts as well as restore already implemented cuts to the Department of Education.


Read the testimony below.


Testimony of Alice Bufkin, Juan Diaz, Caitlyn Passaretti, and Jenny Veloz
Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York
Submitted to the New York City Council FY’2025 Preliminary Budget Oversight Hearing Education Committee
March 18th, 2024

Since 1944, Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York has served as an independent, multi-issue child advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring every New York child is healthy, housed, educated, and safe. CCC does not accept or receive public resources, provide direct services, or represent a sector or workforce; our priority is improving outcomes for children and families through civic engagement, research, and advocacy. We document the facts, engage, and mobilize New Yorkers, and advocate for solutions to ensure the wellbeing of New York’s children, families, and communities.

We would like to thank Chair Joseph and all the members of the New York City Council Education Committee for holding today’s important Preliminary Budget Hearing. The following testimony includes the budget recommendations to ensure an equitable education for all students across New York City.

For the past several years, New York City Public Schools have received over $7 billion in federal stimulus funding to support a wide range of critical programs, ranging from early care and education, to school health and mental health services, to support for immigrant students, among many others. This funding is set to expire in June 2024, which will result in a catastrophic loss in essential educational services and supports that students have come to rely upon. CCC stands with our partners on the Emergency Coalition to Save Education Programs to demand that the City devises a strategy to fund the multiple essential programs currently being funded by expiring relief dollars. Throughout this testimony, we highlight critical educational priorities for New York City’s students that are facing cuts both from City funding reductions and from the looming loss of federal COVID-19 relief funding.

Restore funding to Early Childhood Education

The FY25 Preliminary Budget proposes historically devastating cuts to the Early Care and Education system. The projected $170 million cut from ECE would result in a loss of up to 15,000 seats for children, at a time when families can least afford these cuts. Notably, the proposed budget reductions are in addition to enormous budget reductions that have occurred over the past year and a half, beginning with the November 2022 financial plan. The November 2022 plan eliminated $283 million in ECE funding from the 2024 and 2025 fiscal year plans. If the proposed cut of $170 million in city levy funds goes through, a full $399 million would be lost from the pre-K and 3-K systems for FY25.i

Citizens’ Committee for Children has analyzed the impact of these cuts and identified which districts are at greatest risk of losing seats. (See Appendix at the end of this testimony). These maps show that the Preliminary Budget places child care access at grave risk across the city.

We know family households across the city face an affordability crisis, with 80 percent of all family households unable to find affordable care, and in some communities spending up to 63 percent of their income on child care, preschool or afterschool care alone.ii We know that households at the lowest end of the income spectrum were hit hardest by the job and income loss resulting from the pandemic, and women have been pushed out of the labor market sector at disproportionate rates. And while the city’s economy has begun to recover in some ways, lower-income households are largely not experiencing this recovery. The city has seen $23 billion in lost economic activity resulting from lack of access to child care, and households earning less than $65,000 a year are leaving NYC at a rapid pace.iii

Our city must do everything it can to protect investments in early care and education and fill budgeted seats. From extensive engagement with and surveying of NYC caregivers citywide, we know demand for affordable childcare, 3K and PreK is enormous, and that open seats are a reflection of unacceptable barriers to access rather than lack of demand. CCC, in partnership with child and family service provider organizations, undertook a multi-pronged, mixed method, community-based approach to understand the systemic challenges that result in open seats in contracted ECE programs and develop solutions to the barriers families face accessing care.

Based on a citywide survey and focus groups with parents and providers, it is evident these seats remained unfilled due to bureaucratic barriers to entry, lack of knowledge of existing programs, and options not matching families’ needs and work schedules. Providers also identified contract inflexibility as a serious problem, as it constrains the ability to respond to community needs. Additionally, it is clear that excessively late payments to centers and family child care jeopardize the ability of ECE providers to operate stably.

Our report, The Youngest New Yorkers, demonstrates the challenges families face in accessing available seats, including:

  • A lack of seats for children age three and younger
  • A growing share of seats is limited to school-day, school-year programs that do not fit many working families’ needs for extended day, year-round programs.
  • Centralizing the enrollment process within DOE was intended to facilitate access, but instead has prevented contracted ECE providers from enrolling families on site
  • Parents and caregivers of young children found applying for care to be daunting, time consuming, and confusing and were offered little support in navigating the application process
  • Families require child care arrangements and other supports the current ECE system does not fully meet, such as: transportation aid; care locations close to home or work; care during nontraditional working hours, including overnight or on weekends; and other needs related to their children’s health and safety or special needs.
  • There is inadequate community-rooted outreach through credible messengers to families about ECE options, and too few parents know what their options are or how to access them

Parents need more affordable child care options, not less, and cuts to the ECE system will have a devastating impact on families throughout the city. Rather than cutting ECE services, the City must instead address the barriers preventing families from accessing available care and work towards achieving universal child care access. Cuts to the ECE system are deeply inequitable and unconscionable, and we urge the City Council and the Administration to resolve this crisis by fully restoring the $170 million cut from the system.

In addition to urging restoration of funding, CCC, in partnership with the Campaign for Children (C4C), have identified the following priorities that are designed to ensure that the city addresses the funding and operational issues that are leading to further inequities and barriers to care. These priorities were detailed in a recent letter (attached) submitted to the City Administration.


  • Fund new ECE labor contracts that advances the next phase of salary parity between center and school- based early educators, ensuring staff left out of the first phase agreement are included, that longevity and summer service provision are factored in, and that a minimum wage floor of $25 is established for support staff.

Enrollment and Access:

  • Prioritize consumer-centered outreach and enrollment, including by enabling CBOs providing child care to directly enroll children onsite, and by taking immediate action to stand up community-rooted application and enrollment facilitators that prioritize filling open ECE seats in partnership with CBOs.
  • Build out a birth to five platform that offers full-day, year-round access to infant, toddler, 3K, PreK, as well as CPSE services alongside a sustained commitment to community rooted engagement and CBO partnership.

On Time and Full Payment:

  • Pay early care and education providers on time and catch up on payments owed
  • Fully staff DOE divisions responsible for invoicing and payment and make permanent the ability of ECE providers to batch multiple months of
  • Ensure ECE contracts reflect the financial value needed to meet initial and forthcoming salary parity agreements.
  • Move ECE contracts out of PreKids and into PASSPORT to ensure transparency and inclusion of ECE contracted service delivery system in ongoing contracting and invoicing reforms.

These operational system changes and investments are necessary to stabilize, improve, and revitalize the early care and education system in NYC.

Finally, the City must address loss of $96 million in federal stimulus funding for preschool special education. This funding has helped the City address the significant shortage of legally required preschool special education classes, helping programs recruit and retain certified special education teachers, and adding service providers and staff to help with the development of service plans.

Support immigrant families and students

As New York City experiences an increase in the number of migrant arrivals, it has never been more important to support the ability of immigrant families to secure safe and affordable child care. We therefore urge the City to baseline $20 million for Promise NYC to continue serving undocumented families.

Additionally, we recognize that the NYC public school system is ill-equipped to serve English language learners, and too many families are unable to access high-quality schooling and programs for their children. Today, the City faces a historic number of asylum seekers in need of accessible education and English language supports. Our city leaders must provide for these populations of students.

We urge City leaders to Protect funding that will be lost due to the expiration of COVID 19 Relief Funding:

  • $10 million to hire bilingual staff to support the education of English Language Learners, only 46% of whom graduated from high school in four years even before the pandemic.
  • $7 million for translation and interpretation services, which are particularly vital at a time when more than 40% of students speak a language other than English at home and when the need has grown.

Education access for students in temporary housing

Housing insecurity for students has dramatically increased in recent years. For the eight consecutive years, over 100,000 students have experienced homelessness in New York City. During the 2022–23 school year, 119,320 New York City students experienced homelessness, a 14 percent increase compared to the 2021–22 school year. Of those students, over 40,000 (34%) spent time living in City shelters.

Students who are homeless face severe obstacles to educational success. For example, in the 2021–22 school year, of those students living in shelter: 72 percent were chronically absent, and only 63 percent graduated in four years, compared to 85 percent of permanently housed students.iv

We urge the City Administration to implement the following actions to improve the housing stability of students experiencing homelessness.

Within DOE’s budget we urge a baselining of $3.3 million in city funds and protect $9 million in expiring federal funds used to support the continuation of Community Coordinators at citywide shelters. These positions are essential for students success as they need the support of advocates to coordinate their needs with shelter and public-school officials.

Additionally, in previously delivered testimony at the General Welfare hearing we called out the need to:

  • Reverse the 60-day shelter stay limit for families with Migrant students are being forced to exit temporary shelter after a limited time and oftentimes sleep on the streets. Community-based organizations have reported that many migrant children are missing school due to the 60-day shelter stay rule.
  • Fund and effectively implement CityFHEPS expansion, which would remove administrative and eligibility barriers and expedite access to housing support for students who are experiencing

Support the Behavioral Health Needs of Students

Schools play an essential role in meeting the behavioral health needs of children, yet New York City’s approach to addressing the social-emotional needs of students in schools has often been fragmented and insufficient. Far too many students experiencing an emotional crisis are still sent to emergency rooms, subjected to police intervention, or punished with disciplinary practices such as suspension.

Schools need the resources and training necessary to support the mental health of all students, rather than relying on punitive and traumatizing responses to student behavior. We urge you to take the following actions in the budget to support the mental and emotional wellbeing of students.

  • Baseline $5 million to fully implement and sustain the Mental Health Continuum, an innovative model that integrates a range of direct services, including expedited mental healthcare, a NYC Well hotline to advise school staff, mobile response teams to respond to students in crisis, training for school staff in Collaborative Problem Solving, and culturally-responsive family engagement to students with significant mental health challenges. This cross-agency partnership (NYCPS, Health + Hospitals, Department of Health & Mental Hygiene) supports students at 50 high needs The Mental Health Continuum has begun pairing clinics and schools, and guaranteed funding is essential for ensuring the program can reach its potential.
  • Protect mental health and social-emotional supports at risk of ending through city cuts and the expiration of COVID-19 relief Cutting the programs students have come to rely on will have a devastating impact on their emotional wellbeing.
    • 450 school social workers ($67 million in expiring federal COVID-19 relief funding). Nearly 194,000 students gained access to a social worker in their schools thanks to this investment.
    • Restorative justice practices ($12 million in expiring federal COVID-19 relief funding). Restorative practices address the root causes of behavior, hold students accountable while keeping them in school learning, build and heal relationships, and teach positive behaviors. They also correlate with improved academic outcomes, school climate, and staff-student relationships.
    • Community schools (Restore $8 million in PEGs and protect $55 million in expiring federal COVID-19 relief funding). Community schools provide students and families with wrap-around supports and services, including mental healthcare and the types of material and social supports that prevent the emergence of heightened behavioral health needs. This initiative, which expanded from 266 to more than 400 schools thanks to expiring federal and city funds, has proven effective at lowering chronic absenteeism and increasing on-time high school graduation While the initial $10 million cut to community schools for FY24 has been restored, community schools are still facing an $8 million PEG in FY25-FY28, on top of the expiring federal relief funding. We demand a full restoration for community schools, as they serve as pivotal resources in their communities and provide holistic supports for students.
  • Invest $3.75 million to expand school-based mental health clinic services. It is critical that the City invest now to bolster 50 existing school-based mental health clinics (SMHCs). Each SMHC should receive $75,000 in annual operating support to maintain and expand on-site mental health services for children. SMHCs provide on-site mental health services to children during the school day, including psychiatry, medication management, family peer support, youth advocacy, and counseling. SMHC staff work closely with school staff to identify children in need and coordinate services. SMHCs work to engage the whole family and can serve family members at their community location. SMHCs provide crisis mental health services, ensuring children receive a compassionate response when they are in need and reducing the use of suspensions, detentions & punitive Currently, most funding comes from Medicaid, which does not adequately cover the range of services provided. A $3.75 million investment would provide the additional resources these clinics need to fully cover the costs of overseeing these services. Ultimately, we recommend a long-term goal in the future of expanding funding to all 280 SMHCs at a total cost of $21 million.

Food and Nutrition Funding in Schools

We join the Lunch for Learning Coalition in calling for the continued investment of cafeteria enhancement experience (CEE). These redesigned cafeterias feature more of a food-court style and student friendly seating. Redesigning cafeterias is very cost effective (costing approximately $600,000 per cafeteria) and can be completed in three days. CEE has had a tremendous impact in school meal involvement among students, increasing lunch participation by 35% among high school students, increasing the number of fruits and vegetables served, and ensuring that school meals continue to be the healthiest for students across all income levels.v We therefore urge city leaders to invest an additional $150 million in the Chancellor’s Capital budget for funding for the continued redesign of middle and high school cafeterias.

Transportation Access for Students in Foster Care

While both federal and state law require the City to provide transportation to students in foster care so they can remain in their original schools, the DOE currently does not guarantee any form of transportation to these students. This is causing deeply harmful disruptions for students in foster care, including forcing them to transfer schools or foster homes to access an education.

Being in foster care is disruptive enough for a young person; the DOE must do everything in its power to ensure that students in foster care are supported and, at the bare minimum, can get to school. During the 2019-20 school year, one in five NYC students had to change schools upon their initial placement in foster care. This disruption of students’ lives and education is unacceptable and unjust. We ask the City Council to ensure that the budget includes $5 million for the DOE to provide bus service or other door-to- door transportation to the relatively small number of students in foster care who need it to maintain school stability.

Thank you for this opportunity to submit testimony, and for your continued commitment to ensuring and equitable education for all New York City students.


i NYC Independent Budget Office. “Drifting from the Plan: Changes to Early Childhood Budgets.” February 2024.
ii Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York (2023). CCC Brief: From Birth to Age 12. The (Un)Affordability of Child Care and Out-of-School Care in New York City. Accessed: birth-to-age-12- child-care-and-out-of-school-care/
iii Childcare Innovation Lab. Toward a Working Future: A Childcare Toolkit for New York City Employers Accessed:
iv Advocates for Children. “Educational Indicators for Students Experiencing Homelessness, 2021-22”. November 2023.
v Community Food Advocates. “Cafeteria Redesign: Equity Across NYC Schools. 2023. Cafeteria+Redesign-Oct2023.pdf

Download CCC's testimony, which additionally includes a letter to Mayor Adams on ECE cuts and mapping of ECE seats in both centers and schools put together by CCC Senior Research Associate For Data Resources, Marija Drobnjak.

Download the Testimony >

Mapping Open ECE Seats

CFY’25 Preliminary Budget Places at Risk Access Across Community Districts

For 2021-2022* the capacity of the early care and education services system (for services contractually offered in schools, centers and family child care settings) was 127,200 seats and enrollment in this system was 94,444, leaving 32,756 open seats. We have mapped 25,138 seats that are open in school-based and center-based settings and have identified by community district the age cohort impacted by open seats. Note: while 7,626 seats were open in family child care settings, publicly available data does not allow us to map these seats.

*School Year 2021-2022 is the most recent publicly available data that CCC obtained from the Department of Education.


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