Dear Mayor de Blasio, Chancellor Richard Carranza, Executive Superintendent Tim Lisante, Superintendent Paul Rotondo:
We represent a group of transfer school educators and educators who have worked with at-risk populations across New York City. We demand that the City of New York, the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Post-Secondary Readiness, Executive Superintendent Tim Lisante, Superintendent Paul Rotondo to strongly reconsider the proposed cutting of the Learning to Work Program.
Under the current budget, according to Chalkbeat, 3000 students who attend transfer schools in NYC have access to the Learning to Work (LTW) program and benefit from paid internships which are funded by that program and partnerships with community organizations that are embedded in schools. These community organizations provide critical services and staff including “advocate counselors” who mentor students though building relationships, making sure they are coming to school every day or engaging in online learning, providing individual counseling, and helping students plan for college or technical careers after high school.
The vast majority of students who attend transfer schools and alternative programs are young people of color and/or are economically disadvantaged. The paid LTW internships provide young people with job readiness skills and money to support themselves or their families. Many of our students are young parents or caregivers of family members and the LTW internships help them care for their own families.
Internships provide an incentive for students to attend school since they only get paid if they attend classes. NYC school graduate Giodany M. stated, “Before I joined the LTW at my school, I really struggled with focusing on my classes and coming on time. Because I knew my attendance, grades, and punctuality were tied to my LTW internship, I knew I had to bring my A-game to school.” High School for Excellence and Innovation (HSEI) graduate Kyla W. said, “Before I enrolled at HSEI, I was constantly cutting school. The LTW program really helped me get serious about education and it also opened my eyes to new opportunities in the world outside of Harlem.”
On Bronxnet Community Television, Annie Minguez, Director, Government and Community Relations at Good Shepherd Services stated, “The Learning to Work model pays for both the support that the community-based organization provides in schools in partnership with educators and then puts over $9M into the pockets of young people who we know some are parents, experiencing homelessness, dealing with being the caretaker at home, or living in mix immigration status homes. We know that our young people need these services.”
Chancellor Carranza, you have always claimed to support equity and access for all students in the NYC public school system. Cutting the LTW program from alternative programs and transfer schools would cause an increase in the dropout and Long-Term Absence rate across the City for decades to come, it will keep more students trapped in poverty and unable to help their families. Furthermore, by cutting off internships during such an uncertain time, it will push very vulnerable students towards seeking alternate means of supplementing these lost income opportunities. Some of these alternate means may be detrimental to their academic success as well as their personal safety.
As you are all aware, New York City spent almost $42 million on the Learning to Work Program, including $9 million on providing students with internships, according to the city’s Independent Budget Office. From an equity standpoint, cutting the program’s budget by 72% down to $11.7 million, LTW does not make sense. According to data provided by the city’s Independent Budget Office, implementing this budget cut would be a gross disservice to the 17,000 students in our city’s 46 transfer schools and all 20 Young Adult Borough Centers.
Collectively, 20 community-based organizations served 16,446 students and secured over 3,000 internships in the 2019-2020 academic year. Internships for the 2019-2020 school year amounted to over $9 million to students. Learning to Work partners re-engage students who would otherwise be out of school. In a recent survey of over 800 transfer school students, 41% report that if they had not found a transfer school they would have dropped out (And Still They Rise, 2020). The Covid-19 pandemic will cause youth disconnection rates to spike dramatically. We estimate that the number of disconnected youth will easily top six million and could swell to almost one-quarter of all young people (The Social Science Research Council, June 2020). Students in schools and programs with Learning to Work partners are more likely to say the school is kept clean, students treat each other with respect, the classrooms are inclusive, and adults support them with college and career options.
During the 2019-2020 school, a transfer high school in East Harlem and the Learning to Work program helped with at least 90% of the graduates. Of those graduates, 10% of the students applied and were accepted to 4-year colleges.
As educators, we are witnessing how the Learning to Work program has helped and is helping students in poverty move economically upwards and inspiring students to fulfill their dreams of successful futures. Please consider the history of LTW, what is currently accomplishing, and the future based on your decisions when this valuable program is up for a vote.
Daniel Nartey II
Lydia Howrilka Frank DiMaggio
Phillip M. Corder
Dr. Evan Lowenthal, PhD
Sarah E. Spurge
UFT Solidarity Council 2020