De Blasio Considering Eliminating Gifted Programs to Achieve Racial Parity in NYC Schools

Bill de Blasio at a rally in New York City, May 21, 2019. (Jeenah Moon/Reuters)

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio is current considering a proposal that would eliminate all selective schools and programs in an effort to further integrate the city’s public education system, the New York Times reported Monday.

The proposal was developed by a board that de Blasio appointed to devise policies that will reduce the racial disparities between the selective schools and gifted programs, which are mostly utilized by white and Asian students, and the non-selective schools, which are mostly populated by black and Hispanic students.

The New York City public education system is one of the only ones in the country that’s run entirely by the mayor’s office, rather than a board of education. As a result, de Blasio can adopt all or part of the proposal without input from the state legislature, the city council, or any other body.

Gifted programs and selective schools have “become proxies for separating students who can and should have opportunities to learn together,” the panel, comprised of several dozen education experts, wrote in a report obtained by the New York Times.

The panel recommends that the gifted schools be replaced with so-called magnet schools, which they believe will attract a diverse group of students interested in one particular subject area. Under their recommendation, elementary and middle schools would no longer be permitted to admit students based on test scores. The city’s seven selective high schools, which are partially controlled by the state, would be exempted.

De Blasio has stressed his commitment to achieving racial parity in the city’s schools since taking office and has identified a lack of resources as the chief obstacle preventing that end.

As part of his effort to court teacher’s unions and secure more resources for the city’s public schools, he’s relentlessly attacked charter schools and the emphasis on giving family’s choice that was championed by his predecessor Michael Bloomberg. While charter schools tend to produce better educational outcomes on average, de Blasio has argued they increase inequality.

“I’m going to be blunt with you, I am angry about the state of public education in America,” de Blasio shouted during his opening statement at the National Education Association’s annual assembly in Houston in July.

“I am angry about the privatizers. I am sick and tired of these efforts to privatize a precious thing we need — public education. I know we’re not supposed to be saying ‘hate’ — our teachers taught us not to — I hate the privatizers and I want to stop them,” he said.

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