Nearly 112,000 children attending city public schools were homeless at some point last year, a record-breaking number.
It's a crisis Mayor Bill de Blasio and former Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña struggled to address. Now, officials and advocates are imploring the new schools chancellor to take bold action to help homeless kids find stability and success in school.
"There are simply not enough resources for homeless children to make it in the city," said City Comptroller Scott Stringer. They're being discriminated against because the DOE has no plan to make sure they get to school and they never call when they're not in school."
Stringer is asking the new chancellor, Richard Carranza, to immediately change several policies to better address the needs of homeless students.
In a letter, Stringer told Carranza about an audit the comproller's completed last month. It looked at the attendance records of 73 students who lived in shelters two years ago and found they were absent 42 days on average. In 92 percent of those cases, the Education Department never did the required follow-up to see why.
The comproller says the chancellor should hire social workers to supplement the 110 family assistants assigned to more than 33,000 students living in shelters. Unlike social workers, family assistants do not need college degrees or even formal training.
Stringer also asks that all city schools be required to accept homeless students throughout the school year, including elite public schools. Now, no high-performing schools take such students in the middle of the school year.
"They've got long odds already, so let's take some of the best schools and say, 'Can you make room for the kids who we know have great potential but they're languishing in homeless shelters?'" Stringer said.
Carranza has not yet responded to the letter, but he has spoken about prioritizing the homelessness crisis.
"I'm very sensitive to the issue of homelessness and what that does in terms of insecurity academic insecurity for our students, so I will absolutely be sitting down and working with whomever is at the table, and if they have a roadmap or plan, even better," Carranza said.
Whether that includes acting on the suggestions of the comptroller, the sometimes-political rival of Carranza's boss, de Blasio, remains to be seen.