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Advocates push mayor to restore funding for New York City students living in shelters

Students at the Flushing Family Residence, a shelter for homeless families, participate in a previous spring arts camp. The city is promising to wire all family shelters with Wi-Fi access.
Students at the Flushing Family Residence, a shelter for homeless families, participate in a spring arts camp, part of the shelter's Afterschool Reading Club.
Cassi Feldman

A coalition of advocacy groups is urging Mayor Bill de Blasio to restore $10.3 million in funding for homeless students before his 2018 executive budget is finalized.

In a letter sent to the mayor Wednesday, they argue that the programs on the chopping block (which include the Afterschool Reading Club profiled by Chalkbeat last week) are essential.

More than 34,000 New York City students lived in shelters in the 2015-16 school year, an increase of 24 percent over the last five years, the letter notes. “These students urgently need additional support to succeed.”

In an article published Wednesday by the Daily News, advocates said the funding had successfully brought dozens of much-needed social workers into schools with large homeless populations.

According to the city, the $10.3 million funds:

• The after-school literacy program referenced above, which brings teachers into shelters three days per week

• Technology and training to help education department staff in shelters work more closely with families and schools

• Workshops held in shelters to help students apply to middle and high school

• Attendance teachers based in shelters

• Additional health care and mental health services for schools with high numbers of students living in shelters

Another $19.5 million in capital funding will build new health centers on up to 13 campuses with large elementary schools and significant populations of homeless students.

Asked in January about the $10.3 million missing from his draft budget, the mayor said it would likely be restored in the executive budget “in some form,” Politico reported.

Freddi Goldstein, a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office, said the programs were still under review.

“We are currently evaluating and will add funds as necessary as part of the continuing budget process,” she wrote in an email. “We’re committed to supporting students in shelter and we’re doing our due diligence to make sure resources are used wisely.”

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