New York has earned a reputation for its widely diverse population but despite having the largest school system in the nation, it still remains as the most segregated.
Mayor Bill de Blasio took office back in 2014 and has made it a central goal of his tenure to reduce inequality and segregation. In an attempt to do so, he released a proposal to completely rebuild admission practices in the school district. This proposal also mentions the complete elimination of gifted and talented programs in the city, to be replaced with magnet schools and enrichment programs. These new programs are open to students of differing academic abilities and are intended to attract children interested in similar subjects.
In theory, this new plan for magnet schools and enrichment programs seems eminent. It only makes sense that students of similar interests study alongside each other. But it still needs improvement before it can become a reality. There are missing details and a lack of solid foundation which have caused a backlash from parents and educators who are fearful that the school system in which their kids are already succeeding in might fall apart.
It is understandable how fear of change can cause an uproar within these neighborhoods. Parents of elite high school students are afraid that their hard work could be erased if their schools become dismantled. But giving low-income families of color an equal opportunity for higher education is not taking any opportunity away from white and asian middle-class families. It is disappointing, but not surprising how similar these conversations sound to ones that took place in the 1950’s. Parents are afraid that their kids won’t be educated as well in mixed classrooms.
According to the New York Times, nearly 70 percent of the city’s public school population are black or latino and yet the gifted classes are made up of about 75 percent white or asian students. The racial division in New York’s public schools has been discussed among officials before but the controversy really sparked off earlier this year after only seven black students were admitted into elite high school programs; out of 895 seats. These statistics illustrate the severe segregation in New York’s public schools. It is also notable that opportunities are unfair because don’t reach every student equally.
“While middle-class families often make full use of test preparation resources, low-income parents unaware of or unable to afford tutoring may find their children shut out of the city’s highest performing schools,” assert New York Times reporters Vivian Wang and Eliza Shapiro.
Because the current admission program has a strong emphasis on attendance and standardized test scores, many children often find themselves excluded from higher education. These opportunities don’t reach every student in the city; its exclusivity is unfair.
Although de Blasio’s plan needs improvement, it is a strong first step towards mending the segregated school system. Those who refuse to see the obvious division in schools, and wish to preserve mostly white and asian schools are limiting the future of New York’s youth.