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Improving City Services

Betsy Gotbaum was first elected to serve as Public Advocate in November 2001 and re-elected in 2005. She is only the third woman elected to a city-wide post in NYC history. As Public Advocate, Betsy Gotbaum improves the lives of the City’s most vulnerable residents by championing reforms that lead to better access to city services. The following is a snapshot of some of Betsy Gotbaum’s successes as Public Advocate.



New Report Shows NYC High School Discharge Rates Increasing

Betsy Gotbaum and advocates released a report on New York City’s high school graduation and discharge trends from 2000-2007, the first such comprehensive analysis since 2002. The report’s findings demonstrate that New York City’s high school discharge system remains a loosely regulated accounting loophole that can be used to artificially increase the graduation rate by excluding at-risk students who leave school without diplomas. View Report


Commission on School Governance: Betsy Gotbaum’s strong advocacy on behalf of school children led the state assembly to ask her to convene a commission on school governance that would make recommendations on the reauthorization of mayoral control before it expires in June 2009. The commission, whose members includeexperts in education, policy and government, met with over 60 stakeholders and has acquired a series or original papers from nationally recognized experts; these will be published by the Brookings Press. The commission’s report will be available in late 2008.

Fought forced drop outs: Betsy Gotbaum and Advocates for Children showed that, over 3 years, the DOE forced 160,000 students to drop out of high schools, triggering new procedures to prevent this illegal practice.

Secured special education services: Betsy Gotbaum revealed that the DOE was withholding special education services for up to 20,000 students, prompting the DOE to make reforms to the special education evaluation system.

Improved Career and Technical Education: Betsy Gotbaum found that DOE has failed to align CTE programs with growth industries, match programs with muchneeded industry partners, and promote gender balance in CTE high schools. Her recommendations for improving the CTE program were incorporated into the final report of the city’s CTE Task Force. A pilot program will launch in 2009.


Child Welfare

Helped More At-Risk Families: Betsy Gotbaum advocated against the mayor’s shortsighted cuts to preventive services, getting an additional $22 million to help more than 1,000 families stay together.

Improved Child Safety at City Shelters: Betsy Gotbaum identified that, over a 3 year period, 20 children died of abuse or neglect in city shelters. The City Council passed legislation she introduced mandating the distribution of information on reporting of child abuse, providing materials on protecting children, and creating a trainingprogram for shelter staff.

Increased Public Awareness of Sleeping Safety: Betsy Gotbaum found that the most common cause of fatalities of children known to the child welfare system was improper sleeping position, prompting ACS to launch a $1.5 million “Take Good Care of Your Baby” public education campaign.

Prompted ACS to Expanded Legal Services to Better Protect Children: Betsy Gotbaum identified a 23% annual ACS attorney turnover rate due to high caseloads, leading the city to hire 25 more attorneys and increase ACS’ legal budget by $3.4 million.

Women's Issues

Increased a Woman’s Access to Reproductive Health: Betsy Gotbaum and NARAL Pro Choice NY successfully lobbied the city to institute an abortion training program for its medical staff, create separate facilities for women undergoing this procedure, and make available the medical abortion pill.

Forced 100% of Hospitals to comply with Maternity Information Act: Betsy Gotbaum found that none of the 44 city hospitals that offer labor and delivery services were providing legally-mandated maternity information. Her advocacy resulted in 100% of city hospitals making this information available.

Improved Access to the HPV Vaccine: Betsy Gotbaum revealed few city clinics offered the HPV vaccine. Shortly thereafter, the city announced all immunization clinics would make this vaccine available.

Fighting Hunger


Improved Access to Food Stamps: Betsy Gotbaum’s investigations and advocacy resulted in the food stamp application being reduced from 16 pages to 4, evening and weekend food stamp office hours for working New Yorkers, and a community-based outreach program that enrolled 77,000 New Yorkers in the food stamp program.

Improving Government


City Services Satisfaction Project: Betsy Gotbaum initiated a program to assess New Yorkers’ opinions of city services in order to provide city agencies with information they need to make improvements. In partnership with the Mayor and the Fund for the City of New York, 100,000 New Yorkers were surveyed. This was the largest municipal services survey ever conducted.

Constituent Services: The Office of the Public Advocate runs a municipal helpline that assists about 12,000 New Yorkers a year in getting the public benefits and services that are rightfully theirs. Constituent calls about help with public benefits and services including public housing, homelessness, income support and food stamps, have more than doubled during Gotbaum’s tenure, as have calls related to the schools.