From addressing overcrowded and underfunded school facilities to expanding employment for young people who are out of school and out of work, the Council knows how important it is to invest in our city’s youth. This year, the Council made strides to ensure that diverse young people at different stages and across a range of experiences are receiving the services they need to grow and succeed.
Studying Overcrowding to Create Better Plans
School overcrowding has a significant impact on student outcomes, and is a serious, growing problem in many of the City’s neighborhoods. This year, the Council created an internal working group to study the issues of school planning, siting, and overcrowding – an initiative first announced by Speaker Mark-Viverito in her 2016 State of the City address. The working group consulted with advocates and experts in the fields of school planning and real estate. A policy report with recommendations on how to help the issue of overcrowding is expected in 2018.
Responding to Disconnected Youth
In New York City, there are approximately 172,000 youth who are not in school or working, which means they are at great risk of living life on the economic margins. Some of the challenges these “disconnected” youth encounter include inaccessible childcare, contact with the criminal justice system, mental health challenges, and substance abuse issues. In response, the Council passed legislation establishing a Disconnected Youth Task Force that will determine what kind of policies would best support these young people in becoming self-sufficient through education and work.
Supporting Employment Opportunities
In addition to its other responsibilities, the New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS) is also responsible for helping NYC residents obtain employment. The Department serves everyone aged 18 and above. However, because youth who are not in school or working experience unique challenges, the Council passed legislation to establish a workforce development program within SBS that would be designed to meet the specific needs of these youth.
Thanks to the Council’s funding, a record number of youth worked in the City’s Summer Youth Employment Program. The 70,000 job slots were up from last year’s 60,000 and almost double the amount allocated 4 years ago.
Additionally, the Council knows that a hungry child will not learn in the same capacity as one who is not. As such, the Council has expanded food access in New York City public schools in the NYC budget, so that all elementary schools will now have breakfast in the classrooms and an expanded number of schools will provide free lunch. Since this expansion, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) has eliminated lunch fees entirely, as recommended by the Council.
Improving Comprehensive Sex Education
Comprehensive sexual health education is connected to positive educational outcomes for students. Yet, many New York City public school students are not currently receiving such education. In addition, discussions about how to prevent and address the trauma of sexual abuse are not required in students’ health education. The Council passed legislation creating a task force to review the current recommended sexual education curriculum and its implementation in New York City schools, and to make recommendations for improvement and expansion.
Investing in More Physical Education Space
Students at approximately 200 schools in New York City don’t have adequate access to physical education space. The Council took action this year by adding $105.5 million dollars in capital spending to construct new gymnasiums, renovate schoolyards, or convert existing space for schools that currently don’t have sufficient indoor physical education space. This money will cover projects at 76 of these schools and survey the remaining.
Bridging Parents to Cyberbullying Resources
Cyberbullying can have devastating consequences, especially for children and teenagers. To help build awareness of this issue, the Council co-hosted anti-cyberbullying events in every borough across the City in partnership with AT&T and the DOE. Each event featured a compilation of anti-cyberbullying films and provided parents with vital information about popular social media platforms. Parents were informed about how social media can be used to bully and the ways they can monitor and protect their children from cyberbullying. These events also provided a panel discussion with experts and a Q&A session to allow parents to get their questions answered.
Boosting the Young Women’s Initiative
In the City’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget, the City Council committed $5 million for 11 key Young Women’s Initiative (YWI) recommendations, which will be designated to community-based organizations. The initiatives include:
- creating a dedicated contraceptive fund;
- increasing services for immigrant survivors of domestic violence;
- enhancing the Teen Relationship Abuse Prevention Program (RAPP) at the Human Resources Administration (HRA);
- preventing sexual assault for young adults; and
- the Young Women’s Leadership Development
Other YWI initiatives were designated directly to city agencies. These include the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) Youth Health Initiative, expanding transgender healthcare trainings at Health and Hospitals, and work-based learning internships at the DOE.
In 2017, the Council also passed legislation based on a number of the recommendations put forth by the YWI working groups. For example, the Council passed a package of bills which would identify disparities based on race and gender. The legislation requires certain city agencies to complete racial and gender equity assessments, set goals to improve racial and gender equity with regard to their delivery of services and programs, and conduct employee trainings on implicit bias, structural racism, cultural competency and gender inequity, and on how these factors impact their work. By recognizing how our city can combat racial and gender disparities, we can target our programming and resources, and be even more effective in ensuring that the City’s most vulnerable populations are best served.
Culturally responsive teaching must be the standard our city aims for. Towards this, the Council funded two organizations to provide training to approximately 500 teachers: Border Crossers will provide their two-day training, “Talking About Race to the Classroom” and the New York University Metro Center will offer their eight-part series “Critically Conscious Educators Rising” in spring 2018.
The Council also passed a resolution calling upon New York State to convene a task force to assess the cultural relevance of state learning standards across subject areas in elementary, middle, and high school, and to explore the grounding of standards in core content that challenges racism, ableism, and sexism, and is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender nonconforming-affirming.
Protecting the Lives of Children
In October 2016, the Council’s Committee on General Welfare held a hearing on how the City responds to allegations of child abuse, partially in response to the death of three-year-old Zymere Perkins. At the hearing, the Committee focused on the various agencies that are likely to be involved in the lives of vulnerable families – ACS, New York City Department of Homeless Services, HRA, DOE, and the New York City Police Department. The Committee later passed legislation that would improve oversight of ACS’ child welfare policies and procedures, and to establish ChildStat, a quality improvement tool used at ACS to monitor and assess its child welfare practices.
Establishing Gender Equity Liaisons
At the request of the Council, the City permanently funded positions in five city agencies which are responsible for establishing and sustaining an effective, collaborative partnership between the agency, other city agencies and community-based organizations. The funding for these five positions will help increase each agency’s capacity to meet the needs of, and support opportunities for, transgender/gender non-conforming (TGNC) students, as well as cisgender girls and women. These positions, known as Gender Equity Liaisons, are tasked with assessing and supporting each agency’s capacity to address gender disparities, as related to race, class, ability, and other demographics.
Their role also includes increasing agency awareness of and access to programs, events and resources to promote the success and well-being of cisgender, transgender, and gender-nonconforming students.