Education ∙ Cash Relief ∙ Racial Equity
A New Era with Equity and Opportunity for All
For decades, New York City schools have been deeply inequitable as we have enabled a system of haves and have nots. Many have acknowledged the failures, but interventions over the years have done little to bring about systemic change. Andrew Yang is a public school parent who is fiercely committed to improving the quality of education and that of students' experience at school. He will work alongside all stakeholders including educators, parents, students, community partners and more to create a more diverse, nurturing and academically excellent school system.
Establish an Education Opportunity Fund
Keeping with Andrew Yang’s ethos for a human-centered economy and the importance of direct cash relief to empower communities, a Yang administration would establish an Opportunity Fund, which will provide $1,000 a year to each family of a student whose family income puts them at the poverty threshold, has an IEP, or who has been designated an English Language Learner. The funds can be used for additional needed educational services or learning opportunities – for example, private speech therapy sessions, after school programs, music or art lessons, to support traditionally underserved students in accessing educational and developmental enrichment. With an estimated total 500,000 students experiencing some combination of living in poverty, having an IEP, and being an ELL, a Yang administration expects the total cost of the program to be approximately $500 million, which will be funded by the $4.5 billion NYC schools are expected to receive from the federal government. The funds will be provided on a debit card, allowing for research into uses that best promote student academic and social emotional growth. Putting this money directly into parents’ hands gives them the resources to create quality learning environments for their children, especially in the wake of the pandemic that exposed the inequities and lack of resources so many families face. Low-income families should have the same ability to provide positive experiences for their children as more affluent families. This infusion of funding will spark the launch and scaling of programs, especially by entrepreneurs of color, to meet family needs.
Culturally relevant education
Ensure all NYC public schools offer a variety of teaching, classes, curricula, projects and resources that are grounded in the rich diversity of our city.
A Yang’s New York will ensure that every child’s identity is affirmed and valued in the classroom of every school, which will keep the students engaged. Andrew Yang supports the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice’s proposals to ensure that the DOE provides a culturally responsive education. That must start with the curriculum and courses we offer to our students. Andrew will appoint a DOE official who is responsible for overseeing a culturally responsive education to develop curriculum and instruct on course creation. Connecticut recently became the first state in the nation to mandate all high schools offer courses on African American, Black, Puerto Rican, Latino and Asian studies. New York should follow suit. A Yang administration would direct the Chancellor to incorporate cultural and ethnic studies for all students. Andrew also agrees that resources and materials taught to our students must include more diverse, contemporary and culturally accurate texts, and will require school libraries to have an abundance of books written by representative authors.
Make schools more welcoming to parents and families for whom English is not their first language.
It is estimated that 49% of NYC students speak a language other than English at home. Parents who are limited English proficient (LEP) feel excluded from being involved in the school community placing their children at a greater disadvantage. Data shows that meaningful family engagement in a child’s school leads to improved educational results. DOE is legally obligated to provide interpretation services, but parents seeking resources are often rebuffed by the system. Even after a lawsuit brought by Legal Services NYC to address the failures, little has changed. This was only exacerbated by the pandemic. Nearly 70% of parents did not receive technical assistance to set up at home school, and LEP parents were disproportionately affected as they could not readily access the necessary information. The DOE initially surveyed families' tech needs in English, meaning LEP parents were not given the same opportunity to request a laptop/iPad for at least two months. A Yang administration would fund translation and interpretation centrally within the DOE to create efficiencies while ensuring parents can access necessary information regardless of their school’s resources. Furthermore, IEPs will be translated for families who need it so they can better understand their child’s needs and will encourage more collaboration with Parent Coordinators, many of whom are the first point-of-contact for families.
Improve standards for ELL students.
DOE must also revamp services for 12% of students who are English Language Learners (ELL). A Yang administration will drive toward improving academic proficiency and increasing high school degree completion for ELLs. Only half of ELLs graduate on time, with a quarter not finishing at all, the highest dropout rate across all groups. COVID-19 drastically diminished bilingual DOE programs, meaning ELL students are in even greater need of support. Summer education programs will include bilingual specific programs helping ELLs. Andrew Yang will conduct a study to ensure bilingual programs are in place at the schools with the highest need. Beyond this, the city must do a better job at recruiting bilingual teachers. Andrew Yang’s DOE will also recruit more bilingual teachers, service providers, parent coordinators and school staff so that NYC schools are more accessible to families. A Yang administration will also focus efforts on additional programs for ELL high school students. Given the alarming high school dropout rate, the city should develop more options to support older ELLs, including bilingual general education and special education programs, as well as increased support for ELLs to transfer schools and Career and Technical Education (CTE).
Improve school food quality and increase access to Hallal and Kosher meals.
A Yang administration will ensure culturally-appropriate food options are available at all schools. We will also raise awareness of summer meals programs and local resources for families in need. Andrew Yang will also work with the School Construction Authority to build green roofs on school buildings and take various steps to incentivize on-site food production at schools to increase access to nutritious, fresh products. Wherever possible a Yang administration will instruct the DOE to work nutrition into its curriculum. For example, Wellness in the Schools (WITS), a national nonprofit that operates in some district schools provides a good model on how to teach children healthy eating habits in a way that is integrated with local food production and fun coursework. Andrew Yang will expand programs such as this. We will explore farm-to-school programs and work to strengthen food and nutrition education in our schools. We will also encourage sustained relationships between food banks and schools – to support students at risk of food insecurity. And, when schools are undergoing renovations, Andrew Yang will direct SCA and DOE to build enhanced cafeterias that allow for more open, inviting, social environments and display healthy foods prominently through food-court serving style. Read more about Andrew’s food equity plan to increase access to healthy food, reduce food deserts, expand education and invest in community gardens and urban agriculture.
Supporting students who are homeless and in the foster care system
Create a cross-functional task force that addresses educational barriers for students facing homelessness and those navigating the foster care system and more.
In the 2019-2020 school year, 33,000 NYC students spent time in shelters, 94% of whom are Black or Latino. Families are sometimes placed in shelters far from their children’s school, resulting in missed classes and lower graduation rates. Data released by the DOE for January show students living in shelters saw the most absences, with a monthly attendance rate of 75.7% compared to the citywide rate for all students, which was 89.2%. A Yang Administration will create a multi-agency initiative to better support students facing homelessness. This would include having families placed as close to their children’s school as possible and increasing the number of school based staff who uniquely serve homeless students, as only one in four children in shelters currently have access to that resource. A Yang administration would also revisit the current shelter services dedicated to student support. Andrew Yang believes all family and youth shelters should have a qualified member of staff to help students and parents navigate NYC’s education system and help students stay on track. That is why he has committed to building 15,000 supportive housing units in 5 years, which will bring wraparound services to families, including helping parents navigate the education system.
Invest in greater support services for students in foster care by dedicating DOE staff to this task.
While there is some existing structure to support students facing homelessness, DOE does not have any staff solely dedicated to serving students in foster care. On average, students in foster care miss 6 weeks of school, with 10% missing half of the school year. Andrew Yang supports appointing staff whose full responsibility it is to serve the interests of students in foster care, becoming the point person for schools, families and child welfare professionals to implement policies bettering educational outcomes while tracking and improving educational outcomes, opportunities and programs for students in foster care.
Support youth who are aging out of the foster care system.
In particular, for the 600-700 young people who age out of foster care each year without a consistent adult to rely on, the city must do more to provide protections. Andrew Yang supports baselining the city’s investment in Fair Futures, a coalition of child welfare agencies, non-profits, foundations, advocates and young adults working to ensure promises are fulfilled to NYC’s foster youth. The program has been successful in providing mentoring opportunities to nearly 3,000 young people and is vitally filling a previous gap yet the current administration has proposed slashing its funding from $13 million to $3 million in this year’s executive budget.
Give every student in foster care a Golden Ticket.
There are approximately 7,000 students in the foster care system who are legally under the care and custody of the City of New York. These students face many challenges in school: they are more likely to repeat a grade, have an IEP, be suspended and suffer from trauma. And 86% of these students are Black or Latino. With so many more academic challenges to overcome, students in foster care should be granted access to the most appropriate, best possible education New York City offers. Andrew Yang will uphold the principle of giving students in foster care a “Golden Ticket.” This means that DOE will reorient its approach to support, rather than work against, students and their needs. Every child that enters the foster care system will have the opportunity to go to the best possible school of their choosing in consultation with their family resources. The city will allocate resources to ensure that any child in foster care can attend that school, access transportation, and any other resources needed to help that child thrive. The cross-functional task force described above will be responsible for delivering on these accommodations. Andrew Yang also acknowledges that while children are moving homes, school should be a stabilizing constant. Any child who wishes to remain at their school, with the approval of ACS and their family resources, may do so. Parents retain rights under federal laws, with exception for child protective imperatives, to privacy regarding education and health-related materials and records. That is why it is crucial for agencies, such as ACS and DOE to consult with parents and/or other family surrogates through consistent outreach about how to reduce barriers.
Some such barriers include transportation. A Yang administration will ensure that every student actually has the choice to go to the school that is appropriate for them by guaranteeing a dedicated transportation system for students in foster care. Currently, the foster care transportation liaison hired by the DOE is “responsible for coordinating efforts between the city’s Office of Pubic Transportation, ACS and individual schools.” But the DOE only guarantees transportation for students with disabilities who have special transportation mandated by their IEPs. While the DOE currently claims foster care students should remain at their original school for stability, a quarter of students transfer schools when entering the foster care system, often due to lack of transportation. The DOE supposedly guarantees school transportation for foster care students. In reality, they only place kids on existing yellow school bus routes or provide a MetroCard. The portfolio of the transportation liaison should be extended to all students in foster care whose transportation needs should be met, not just those with IEPs.
Above all, this is about changing our mentality to become a city that says “yes we can,” rather than “no you cannot,” especially to the students who have experienced the trauma of removal because of extremely difficult circumstances in their lives.
Ending the false dichotomy of scarcity: universal opportunity
Improve equity in admissions and meaningful integration in classrooms.
New York City has always struggled to have meaningful integration in classrooms. Dating back to Brown vs Board of Education, NYC has not been able to live up to its commitments to integration. Having truly diverse student bodies increases critical thinking and creativity, reduces prejudice and implicit bias and allows students to learn about life experiences different from their own. In order to make lasting change, NYC must first understand the true scope of the issue. That is why Andrew Yang would include diversity metrics in School Quality Reports. From there, schools can set goals to reflect their districts’ demographics. A Yang administration will work closely with school districts to understand what they need to achieve their diversity goals and support them in realizing said goals. Finally, we cannot have a truly diverse school system without a diverse workforce. Yang will work with DOE to continue their work in seeing diversity in school staff at every level.
Facilitate high-quality schools, including district and charters.
For too long, politicians have facilitated a charter versus district school debate that has become a distraction. Andrew Yang supports schools that serve students and families well. We mustn’t artificially limit expansion of good charter schools, especially when there is demand from parents for more seats. Andrew believes that we should free-up zombie charters and geographical restrictions, while engaging with legislators in Albany to ensure parental demand for additional charters is met.
Increase access to Specialized High Schools
New York City’s Specialized High Schools are world renowned, producing some of the most successful mathematicians, scientists, artists and political leaders in the U.S. But for too long our city has created a false dichotomy of scarcity, which has pitted communities against each other and prevented achieving the diversity our schools need to cultivate our students. To remedy this, Andrew Yang will create at least one new specialized high school in each borough. And there’s precedent for this. Three schools— the High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering; the High School of American Studies at Lehman College and Queens High School for Science were founded in 2002. Staten Island Tech was founded in 2005 and Brooklyn Latin School was opened as a specialized high school in 2006. Together, these 5 have been designated as specialized high schools by the city and have been offering top notch education. There is no reason New York has waited fifteen years since creating new specialized high schools. Andrew Yang is committed to making sure that all of our schools are excellent and by increasing the number of designated charter schools, we will be one step closer to this goal.
Beyond this, Andrew Yang will keep the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), which is mandated by state law. And he will advocate to expand the admissions criteria to include interviews, recommendations, middle school grades, written work and other metrics of admission that will make the admissions process more accessible and inclusive.
There indeed are non specialized high schools—whether screened or not— that serve primarily Black and Brown kids and are great schools. For example Urban Assembly School of Law and Justice is an unscreened school and is 92% Black and Hispanic. The school has been high-performing for many years with graduates attending top colleges. We must recognize and elevate these excellent schools while also sharing best practices to ensure that all schools help their students achieve at high levels.
Provide every student opportunities to take rigorous, college-track courses in every school.
Every school must be excellent. As discussed above, Andrew Yang will direct the DOE to ensure all schools offer high-quality curriculum and diverse, well-trained teachers with high-expectations for students' success so regardless of what school a student attends, she is guaranteed a consistently high-quality education. We know how to create excellent and rigorous instruction that challenges our students and propels them toward academic, emotional and social success. But for too long our students have been the casualties of self-imposed scarcity of accelerated programs without enough high-level courses so that our schools no longer create a system of haves and have-nots. We must expand programs that work, such as Early College schools and National Equity Labs, which bring college-credit bearing courses to students in schools.