With the number of homeless students surging to another record high last year, the education department will hire 100 new community coordinators to help schools better serve this vulnerable population of children.
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza announced the new hires Monday night in response to parent questions at a town hall in Harlem. He said the coordinators will work in schools that enroll a high proportion of homeless students.
“Students in temporary housing, homeless children, are a big priority in our administration,” Carranza said.
More than 114,000 city students are homeless — a historic number that poses pressing challenges for schools. Children who don’t have stable housing tend to lag behind their peers on state tests and be chronically absent, which hinders academic progress on average.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has faced growing pressure to do more for homeless students as their numbers have soared. The city’s most recent budget included about $16 million for after-school programs and for 70 social workers to work in shelters and schools, though advocates have called for 150 such positions to be filled.
It’s unclear what responsibilities the new coordinators will take on. The education department did not respond to requests for comment.
Randi Levine — policy director for Advocates for Children, an organization that provides legal and other assistance to low-income students — said the city plans to use money available under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act to pay for the coordinators, who will work within district offices in addition to schools.
She applauded the city for dedicating more resources for homeless students, but also said it’s important the new coordinators work in tandem with social workers already in the field.
“Given the challenges of addressing complex issues like chronic absenteeism, it will be critical that the coordinators have sufficient access to trained social workers who are qualified to provide the social-emotional support students often need,” Levine wrote in an email.
Carranza said the city is modestly expanding its efforts to locate families in shelters that are near their children’s schools. And he has restructured the education department so a single point person, LaShawn Robinson, is in charge of overseeing homeless students.