New York state data released on Tuesday confirms that 10 percent of New York City students were homeless at some point last year.
According to a recent report from the New York Times, that amounts to approximately 111,500 students attending public schools in one of the five boroughs of New York, and more than 148,000 students statewide. That figure is six percent higher than the 2015-2016 school year, and is the highest recorded figure for homeless students on record. The Coalition for the Homeless, which collected data on behalf of the state, found that there are also nearly 8,000 homeless students attending charter schools throughout New York.
While New York mayor Bill de Blasio has promised to increase the city’s homeless shelters as rents continue to climb skyward, the study notes that the population of homeless students residing in homeless shelters only rose by 1,900, as many of the other students are living in hotel rooms, sleeping in cars, or temporarily residing with friends and family members.
Homelessness can take a toll on a child’s ability to learn. A separate report issued by the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness this summer found that the typical homeless elementary school student misses an average of 88 days of school each year, which amounts to nearly half of the entire academic year. The accumulated absences typically come from students and their parents moving to different temporary housing arrangements throughout the year, and children frequently having to enroll in entirely new schools with each move.
The skyrocketing number of homeless students attending New York City public schools is another signifier of the stark economic inequality that plagues the city. Last year, Forbes reported that New York City houses more billionaires than any other major city in the world, with 79 people who have over $1 billion in assets residing in the city — including some of America’s wealthiest people, like former mayor Michael Bloomberg and David Koch, a prominent funder of far-right politicians and causes. New York City’s billionaires have an estimated $364.6 billion in collective wealth, according to Forbes.
Earlier this year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a five-year plan to fight homelessness in New York state, which includes $10 billion for the construction of 110,000 new affordable housing units. Hypothetically, New York City’s 79 billionaires could singlehandedly fund that construction by contributing $25.3 million each year for five years. While that sounds high, that amounts to a wealth tax of just 2.53 percent for someone with a net worth of $1 billion.
Scott Alden is a freelance contributor covering national politics, education, and environmental issues. He is a proud Toledo University graduate, and lives in Inkster, Michigan.