Rosa’s Story: Making a Difference for Homeless Students

Thanks to the actions of Coalition supporters, New York State’s schools chief has promised to help Rosa Bracero and other homeless students — but more reforms are still needed.

Late last week, Mary Brosnahan, the Coalition’s executive director, sent the following message:

Coalition for the Homeless Supporters,

Wednesday afternoon, I spoke with David Steiner, the New York State Education Commissioner, and am proud to announce that in large part because of the pressure and attention the Coalition was able to garner for Rosa’s story, his office has taken swift action to move forward with her graduation and entrance into Lincoln Technical Institute. She will be starting classes next week!

With your help, hundreds of letters were sent urging Mayor Bloomberg to take a stand and change policies that force homeless students to miss school and exams. YOU gave a voice to the 16,000 homeless children in New York City who face hardships like Rosa’s every day. Because of YOU, Rosa will now have a brighter future! Thank you!

As I write this, action is being taken to prevent instances like Rosa’s from happening again. You can read more on the Huffington Post and Commissioner Steiner’s press release below.

The fight isn’t over. Thousands of children affected by homelessness still miss school and fall far behind their peers due to ill-conceived regulations in the shelter system — rules that Mayor Bloomberg hasn’t yet changed. But this victory for Rosa and other homeless students shows we can make a difference.

Thank you once again.


PS: YOUR letters made a huge difference. Invite your friends to join our e-advocacy alert list. Click here.



I am deeply concerned about the issues facing homeless children in our school system. I believe strongly that our system needs to support all of our children, and that homelessness should never be a barrier to educational achievement. With too many families throughout the State facing homelessness and so many struggling in this economy, it is critical that we get this right.

That’s why I was so alarmed by the experience of Rosa Bracero. Because Rosa and her family were required to attend a seven hour meeting at the New York City Central Family Intake Center in order to receive help with their housing needs, Rosa could not take a Regents exam scheduled for that day.

When I first learned of Rosa’s situation, in a story in the Daily News, I directed my staff to contact her school principal, guidance counselor and the post-secondary institution she was hoping to attend next, the Lincoln Technical Institute. We were pleased to receive confirmation from Lincoln that they accepted Rosa into their program and that she will be in her seat for orientation tomorrow and will then start her classes next week. I talked with Rosa’s mother and will be meeting with her and Rosa on Friday morning. I have also spoken with Mary Brosnahan, Executive Director of the Coalition for the Homeless, who worked so effectively to bring Rosa’s story to public attention. We have agreed that we will meet to discuss both this unfortunate situation and the wider issues affecting homeless children and their education.

I have taken immediate steps to ensure that this terribly unfortunate event cannot happen again. I have spoken with Acting Commissioner Beth Berlin who heads up the State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, and Commissioner Robert Hess who administers homeless programs in New York City. My office will be supplying them with all State testing dates, and both Commissioners have assured me that they will take the necessary action so that Rosa’s experience will not be repeated.

We offer Regents exams three times every year — in June, August and January. In the interest of transparency, the test questions and scoring sheets are available to teachers on the same day the exams are given with no restrictions on their use. That is why, unfortunately, we are not able to accept tests from students who take an exam after the official testing date, as Rosa did. Offering Regents exams three times a year is costly — adding make-up tests to these dates would add millions of dollars in expense during a period of drastic fiscal conditions. The Board of Regents will however continue to review all aspects of our test structures and testing calendars.

The challenges Rosa has faced underscore for me our urgent responsibility to make equal educational opportunities available to every student.

David M. Steiner
New York State Education Commissioner

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