The FY25 City Budget Must Ensure Educational Equity for All NYC Children

Testimony & Public Comments

May 15, 2024

On Wednesday, May 15, Associate Executive Director of Policy and Advocacy Alice Bufkin along with Policy and Advocacy Associates Juan Diaz, Caitlyn Passaretti, and Jenny Veloz, submitted testimony to the New York City Council’s FY’2025 Executive Budget Oversight Hearing on Education. On behalf of CCC, this testimony highlights the devastating impacts of the budget cuts to the Department of Education and includes critical budget recommendations to ensure an equitable education for all students across New York City.

Read the full 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 Executive Budget Oversight Hearing on Education
May 15th, 2024

Since 1944, the 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, Chair Brannan, and all the members of the New York City Council Education and Finance Committees for holding today’s important Executive Budget Hearing. The following testimony includes the budget recommendations to ensure an equitable education for all students across New York City.

Restore Funding to Early Childhood Education

The FY25 Preliminary Budget proposed historically devastating cuts to the Early Care and Education system. We are pleased that the Executive Budget restores $92 million in one-year funding for Pre-K and 3-K to replace expiring federal COVID-19 relief funding. However, the budget still includes a devastating cut of $170 million in city levy funds to Early Care and Education. Fully restoring the $170 million in city tax-levy funding to early care and education would protect the path to 3-K expansion and protect Pre-K capacity for 9,000 to 15,000 children.

These cuts are occurring at a time when families can least afford these cuts. 80 percent of all family households are unable to find affordable care, and in some communities, they are spending up to 63 percent of their income on child care, preschool or afterschool care alone. 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 New York City because they can’t afford to live here.x

Notably, these reductions come budget reductions that occurred over the past year and a half beginning with the November 2022 financial plan.1 In restoring the $170 million that is currently at stake now, and addressing the operational barriers outlined below, we can better meet families’ needs, fill seats, and continue the work towards universal access.

We know from extensive engagement with and surveying of NYC families and communities that the demand for affordable childcare is enormous across the city, and that open seats are a reflection of barriers in 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. Our report, The Youngest New Yorkers  demonstrates the 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 face barriers applying for subsidized child care programs or enrolling in universal programs.
  • 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.
  • Inadequate community-rooted outreach through credible messengers to families about ECE options.

Parents need more affordable child care options, not fewer, 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.

Support the ECE Workforce

  • Fund new labor contracts that advances salary parity between community-based centers and their school-based educators and service staff colleagues – ensuring staff left out of the first phase of parity (early childhood directors, support staff in community-based organizations and preschool special education teachers) are included, that longevity is factored into salary increases, and that a minimum wage floor of $25 is established for all support staff.
  • Ensure home-based family child care providers benefit from the increased market rate (reimbursement has increased from 65% to 80%).

Improve Access for Families

  • Reform enrollment procedures so that community-based organizations have the option of directly enrolling children whose families apply for 3-K, Pre-K or child care.
  • Support a robust linguistically and culturally appropriate multi-media community engagement and enrollment effort to fill open, budgeted seats, including by funding early childhood education marketing and outreach at $10 million.
  • Fund Promise NYC at $25 million to continue serving undocumented families in search of

Shore up Fiscal and System Stability

  • Continue to convert school-day, school-year seats to full-day, year-round ECE seats to increase options for families.
  • Permanently extend service providers’ ability to batch and submit multiple months of invoices at once and maintain DOE’s rapid response teams charged with assisting providers with
  • Continue to complete back payments on FY’ 22 and ‘23, commence public reporting on actual payments against planned budget expenditures, and ensure all center-based providers receive no less than 75 percent of their full contract value.
  • Increase FY’24 advance payments to 75 percent of full contract value to address emerging payment delays for the current fiscal year

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

Enhance Funding for Special Education and Child Care for Immigrant Families

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 invest $25 million for Promise NYC to continue providing child care services to undocumented families.

Additionally, the City must address the $13 million funding gap for preschool special education. The restoration and baselining of $83 million in the Executive Budget was a significant step towards the continued provision of preschool special education services. However, the program must be fully restored, particularly because students were being denied their legally required services even prior to budget cuts. This funding is critical to address the significant shortage of legally required preschool special education classes, help programs recruit and retain certified special education teachers, and add service providers and staff to help with the development of service plans.

Education access for students in temporary housing

Housing insecurity for students has dramatically increased in recent years. For the eighth 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.ii

We are grateful that the Executive Budget restores and baselines $17 million to support 100 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. However, there remain essential steps our city can take to further support students experiencing housing insecurity:

  • 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 are grateful for the City Council’s staunch advocacy with the Administration to ensure critical Education programs are not lost as a result of expiring federal COVID relief funding. Many of the restorations we saw in the Executive Budget will directly impact the mental and emotional health of students, including the $74 million for school social workers and psychologists and the $54 million for Community Schools.

However, several vital mental health programs were also left behind. Chief among these is 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 schools. City leaders must not only extend funding for this program, but also permanently baseline funding to give it the security necessary for long-term hiring, planning, and expansion. We urge city leaders to baseline $5 million for the mental health continuum to fully implement and sustain the program.

We were also deeply disappointed that restorative justice funding was not restored. 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. We urge city leaders to protect the $12 million in expiring COVID-19 relief funding for restorative justice practices in schools.

We are grateful that the Executive Budget restores $54 million in expiring federal funds for Community Schools. However, the Budget still includes a $14M gap due to expiring one-year city 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 rates. We demand a full restoration for community schools, as they serve as pivotal resources in their communities and provide holistic supports for students.

Finally, we urge city leaders to 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 measures.

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 SMHCs in the city.

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.

Food and Nutrition Funding in Schools

Through creative menu development and service advancement, continuous expansion of cafeteria enhancement to all middle and high schools, and the expansion of availability of halal and kosher meals, New York City has taken major steps in its commitment on improving school nutrition programs and decreasing child hunger. However, the $60 million cut to the Department of Education’s Office of Food and Nutrition Services (OFNS) threatens the progress made over the years to ensure healthier, more nutritious school meals. These cuts have resulted in the removal of popular food items from school menus. While many of these items have been restored (thanks to public outcry from parents and students), healthy school meals will continue to be in jeopardy unless full funding to OFNS to support school meal operations across the five boroughs is included FY25 Executive Budget. We urge City leaders to restore the $60 million in FY Executive Budget to the Department of Education’s Office of Food and Nutrition Services.

We also call 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.iii 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.  

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


x Beginning with the November 2022 financial plan, OMB has reduced the 3-K budget. In total, reductions to the pre-K and 3-K budget have amounted to $283 million in 2024, and $399 million in 2025. Therefore, we support the long-term goal of reclaiming those funds to support system stability and operational changes. Accessed: plan-changes-to-early-childhood-budgets-february-2024.pdf
i CCC Brief: From Birth to Age 12. The (Un)Affordability of Child Care and Out-of-School Care in New York City. October 2023.
ii Advocates for Children, “Don’t Cut Support for Students in Shelter.” 2024
iii Community Food Advocates (2023). Retrieved from: Cafeteria+Redesign-Oct2023.pdf

Explore Related Content