January 24, 2024

NYSUT and partners launch One-in-Five campaign to combat cycle of childhood poverty

Source:  NYSUT Media Relations
one in five coalition
Caption: "If we really want to address deeply rooted issues that are affecting our students' ability to learn and demonstrate their learning, and if we really want every student to live up to their natural potential, we need to stop ignoring New York’s child poverty problem and use the enormous amount of resources in our state to address it,” said NYSUT President Melinda Person. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

ALBANY – New York State United Teachers and a coalition of child, family and community stakeholders today announced their combined push to confront the root causes and harsh effects of poverty that impact hundreds of thousands of children across the state.

Nearly one in five New York children live in poverty, a rate that exceeds the national average and overall poverty rates in both the state and country. In New York, a state with a GDP of over $2 trillion and home to 135 billionaires and 340,000 millionaires, this is unacceptable.

More than 700,000 children enter our classrooms every day with the burdens of homelessness, unaddressed health concerns, lack of basic hygiene products, and the stigma and stress surrounding a life of poverty. If children are worried about survival, they will be unable to learn.

Childhood poverty isn't inevitable. It is the result of local, state and federal policy choices. The One-in-Five coalition is supporting a slate of initial measures to tackle this crisis on multiple fronts and support the futures our children deserve. 

These include:

  • The Working Families Tax Credit (S277A Gounardes/ A4022–A Hevesi);
  • Mothers and Lasting Change (S4578 Ramos/ A 6197-A  Clark);
  • S1875 Brouk/A4408 Reyes, which supports Medicaid services for students through school-based health centers;
  • S7747 Brouk /A8146 Gonzalez–Rojas, which ensures children who are eligible for public health insurance continue to receive coverage until age of 6;
  • Affordable housing;
  • Universal school meals;
  • $100 million in categorical funding to potentially double the number of community schools in New York. 

Melinda Person, President, New York State United Teachers: “A child’s capacity for creativity and growth – even the ability to experience the joy of learning – is blocked by the effects of poverty. If we really want to address deeply rooted issues that are affecting our students' ability to learn and demonstrate their learning, and if we really want every student to live up to their natural potential, we need to stop ignoring New York’s child poverty problem and use the enormous amount of resources in our state to address it.”

Mario Cilento, President, New York State AFL-CIO: “First and foremost, the New York State AFL-CIO sees this as a social justice issue. There is no disputing that when children lack access to proper nutrition, secure housing, and other critical social and health services, it puts them at a disadvantage.   That is why the entire union movement is united in ensuring that all children start on a level playing field which can be accomplished by providing families with the support they need for food, housing, and health care. It is the best way to improve a child’s health and mental well-being, which bolsters their ability to learn and thrive.”

Sen. Samra Brouk (D-Rochester): “The way a state cares for its young people says everything about its priorities and its values. I’m proud that two of my bills, designed to provide continued health insurance coverage to our young people, and another to connect more students to physical and mental health services through providers at their school, are included in this package. In Rochester, nearly one in two children live in poverty, which is unacceptable. I look forward to collaborating with my colleagues to ensure that every child receives the support they deserve to lead safe and healthy lives.”

Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Queens): “Because of the Child Poverty Reduction Act, New York state has a mandate to cut child poverty in half over the next 10 years. But that doesn’t mean we have to wait 10 years. The time to start is now. Lifting our economy up by focusing on children is the way forward. Guaranteed income for mothers puts money in the hands of those who need it most to ensure that the next generation of New Yorkers start their lives off with safety and economic security.”

Assemblymember Sarah Clark (D-Rochester): “Child poverty is a policy failure, and one that we as legislators must correct. Breaking the poverty cycle to ensure every child has access to health care, food, and equitable educational opportunities regardless of their family’s economic status is our responsibility and an important step toward our goal of cutting child poverty in half. Helping new moms is a much-needed start. I am proud to stand with my Legislature colleagues today and grateful that NYSUT has selected my legislation, Mothers and Infants Lasting Change, as a priority this year.” 

Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas (D-Queens): “More than one in five New York children live in poverty and if we don’t address this during this budget session with serious and bold investment, then we will have abdicated our responsibility as lawmakers. I’m excited that Governor Hochul included my proposal to provide continual health care coverage to children in Medicaid or Child Health Plus (CHP) from birth to age six, but health care is only one part of the equation. I'm proud to stand with NYSUT and advocates, and urge Governor Hochul to fully fund universal school meals in this state budget, because you can’t teach hungry children. If we are going to address childhood poverty, we must do it holistically and comprehensively, not with austerity.”

Andrès Vives, Executive Director, Hunger Solutions New York; Co-Lead of the Healthy School Meals for All New York Kids Coalition: “We especially appreciate NYSUT’s continued advocacy for Healthy School Meals for All, a vital support for student wellbeing. More than one in seven children in New York face food insecurity. School meals are a far-reaching anti-hunger program – but only if kids have access, free of stigma or paperwork barriers. In this year’s state budget, New York can and must extend no-cost school breakfast and lunch to all students across the state, ensuring children’s access to the meals they need to learn and thrive.”

Kate Breslin, President and CEO, Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy: “When a child experiences poverty, it impacts every part of their life, from meals to housing to homework. Reducing New York’s child poverty rate means increasing opportunities and helping more children realize their full potential at school and beyond. With New York’s child poverty rate persistently higher than the national average, and an ambitious target established that has committed the state to reduce child poverty by 50% over the next nine years, New York must prioritize poverty-fighting policies this year.

These initiatives, including the Working Families Tax Credit, the Mothers and Infants Lasting Change allowance, Healthy School Meals for All, housing supports and community schools, encompass the supports New York families need to grow, learn, work, and thrive. The right funding and policies can help us achieve a vision for New York state in which families can not only afford to stay in New York, but choose to stay and flourish here.” 

Rebecca Garrard, Deputy Executive Director, Citizen Action of New York: “Childhood poverty is an escalating crisis in this state and throughout our nation. In order to address this crisis, we must pass policies such as Mothers and Infants Lasting Change to ensure that all children, regardless of race or ZIP code, are able to thrive.”

Ron Deutsch, Director, New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness: “It is long past time that New York starts addressing pervasive child poverty. We have some of the highest child poverty rates in the nation, particularly in our upstate cities, where nearly half of all children are living below the federal poverty line. Research has clearly shown that increasing child tax credits is one of the best ways to help families escape poverty. We know what works, now we just need the political will to make it happen.”

The Rev. Peter Cook, Executive Director, New York State Council of Churches: “A statewide Housing Access program would be one of the most cost-effective ways to provide low income people with permanent housing. Availability of vouchers reduces reliance on much more expensive programs for people who are precariously housed or homeless. Homeless programs are particularly tough on children who move from shelter to shelter instead of having a safe and stable home environment, which vouchers will make possible.”

Marina Marcou-O'Malley, Interim Co Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education: "Children live intersectional lives. In New York, we have the capacity and the resources to give expectant moms what they need, to feed every child or student, to make sure that our public schools can have doctors or mental health professionals and all the services they need to take care of children. We also have the capacity to provide housing, health care and stability to every child. Do we have the will?”

Michael Kink, Executive Director, Strong Economy For All Coalition: "We can move this bold anti-poverty agenda here in New York, because it's happened in other states already. In 2021, Washington state passed a capital gains excise tax to fund a working families tax credit that lifted 36,000 children out of poverty, while funding additional food, housing and healthcare assistance. In 2023, Minnesota passed a capital gains tax to fund a child tax credit that lifted 33,000 children out of poverty, while boosting funding food, housing and healthcare assistance. New York can go bigger and bolder, and with 700,000 NYSUT members and millions of allies leading the way, we'll make it happen together."

New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with nearly 700,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.

Photo Gallery

Child Poverty Campaign Press Conference