Supporting Legislation to Improve Youth Services and Youth Experiences in NYC Schools

Testimony & Public Comments

June 18, 2024

On Tuesday, June 18, Policy and Advocacy Associate Caitlyn Passaretti submitted testimony to the New York City Council’s Education Hearing. On behalf of CCC, this testimony supports legislation requiring the city to inform youth about afterschool programming, as well as recommends operational changes to improve youth services, and supports legislation creating equity in NYC schools by amending dress code policies to reduce unnecessary suspensions.

Read the testimony below.

Testimony of Caitlyn Passaretti, Policy and Advocacy Associate
Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York
Submitted to New York City Council Committee on Education Hearing
June 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 thank Chair Joseph and all the Committee on Education members for holding today’s hearing on legislation impacting the wellbeing of students in the New York City Public Schools System. This testimony focuses on Int 0432-2024, related to information about afterschool programs, as well as Int 0118 and Res 0292, related to school dress codes.

Increasing Access to Afterschool

CCC supports Int 0432-2024 by Councilmember Sanchez, which would require the Department of Education to provide information about after-school programs to students. Afterschool is an essential service for young people, offering spaces where children and youth can learn and engage in a variety of impactful programming. We agree that more work must be done to ensure students are aware of these opportunities. Unfortunately, the projected cuts to critical afterschool programs in the Administrations proposed Fiscal Year 2025 Budget would negatively impact the goals of this bill.

The scope of afterschool and youth services cuts facing New York City in the budget is staggering, with a proposed $6.9 million cut to COMPASS afterschool. This cut will result in a loss of over 3,500 seats for youth, preventing them from accessing community and positive youth development experiences. Access to free and affordable afterschool services has never been more important for New York families. Citywide, 80% of families cannot afford after school for their children, and across the city families pay up to 63% of their annual income on child caring services, including afterschool. It is urgent that our city leaders protect these supports that are critical to the immediate and long-term wellbeing of New York city’s children and families.

Our City must also address the operational issues plaguing the youth services system. Therefore, in addition to restoring funding and passing Int 0432-2024, we join our partners in the Campaign for Children (C4C) in urging the city to implement the following recommendations to address operational challenges:

  • Increase the cost-per-participant rates for COMPASS and SONYC to set a wage floor of no less than $22/hour for staff and ensure year-round contracting.
  • Prioritize consumer-centered outreach and enrollment, including by enabling CBOs providing youth services to directly enroll children and youth onsite, and by taking immediate action to stand up community-rooted application and enrollment facilitators that prioritize expediting access to youth services (afterschool and summer programming) in partnership with CBOs
  • Establish year-round, 12-month youth services and shift to a K-8 summer program model
  • Pay youth service providers on time and catch up on payments owed
  • Fully staff DYCD divisions responsible for invoicing and payment and make permanent the ability of youth service providers to batch multiple months of invoices.
  • Release a new RFP for the SONYC and COMPASS contracts that covers the full and actual cost of care.

By restoring the cuts and addressing the current operational shortcomings, we can build a stronger youth services system and ensure all young people who need services are able to receive them.

Supporting An Equitable Dress Code in NYC Schools

Education disparity continues to impact students in the New York Public Schools System. Suspensions have risen to almost pre-pandemic levels, with a 13% spike in the 2022-2023 school year compared to the previous year.i Furthermore, suspensions disproportionately target Black and Brown students, LGBTQ+ students, and students with disabilities. Even though Black students compose 21% of the student body, they received 40% of all suspensions in the 2022-2023 year.

Similarly, 38% of suspensions were given to students with disabilities, who only comprise about 22% of all students.ii

Research by Girls for Gender Equity has shown that certain dress codes can lead to an increase of suspensions of students and can disproportionately impact Black girls and gender expansive youth of color who may experience greater policing of their clothing choices and punished for how they show up at school.iii CCC, in tandem with our partners, therefore, supports Int. 0118 which would require the Department of Education (DOE) to report on dress code policies in DOE schools.

This reporting bill would include information about whether schools have dress code policies, what those policies contain (including disciplinary provisions), whether those dress codes are posted to school websites, and information on dress code disciplinary violations.

Implementing a reporting system would create a crucial framework of accountability for schools, ensuring adherence to dress code policy guidelines. This bill would mandate that schools make their dress code policies widely available, keeping students and parents well-informed. Moreover, it should track patterns of disproportionate and biased enforcement, thereby addressing and mitigating any inequities in policy application. We believe this is an essential change to build equity and support in students.

Similarly, CCC also supports Res 0292 sponsored by Councilmember Stevens. This resolution would require the Department of Education to create an inclusive school dress code policy that complies with Title IX of the Federal Education Amendments Act and accounts for diverse cultures, gender expressions and body diversity. This would allow for the inclusivity of cultures, gender expressions, sexual orientation and body diversity is overdue to be reflected in the education policies.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide this testimony.

i levels/#:~:text=Schools%20issued%2028%2C412%20suspensions%20during,the%20wake%20of%20the%20pande mic.
ii levels/#:~:text=Schools%20issued%2028%2C412%20suspensions%20during,the%20wake%20of%20the%20pande mic.
iii Girls for Gender Equity. (2021) Suspending Self Expression Part II. PDF.

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