Under a cloud over whether the fate of mayoral control of schools will be killed by the Albany Legislature, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and his Brooklyn counterpart released a report outlining ways to equalize the public school system’s gifted and talented program (G&T), claiming it grossly excludes minority students.
“We are totally optimistic…that before 12 o’clock strikes tonight the Legislature will come up with mayoral control expansion,” Diaz, standing next to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, said at a press conference in front of the New York City Department of Education (DOE) headquarters. “Should we go back to the Board of Education, which nobody wants, but should we go back to that, I think it’s safe to say that we will continue to push so that we can fix the pipeline so that we can have more and more diversity.”
The pair’s report lists ways to fix the problem they argue has kept black and Hispanic children, who make up 70 percent of public school systems, out of quality schools. The disparity falls in the Bronx, where G&T programs are virtually nonexistent.
G&T programs, which provide elementary and middle school students with a more robust instruction than regular classroom instruction, has been viewed as promoting academic bias by having less G&T programs in minority neighborhoods when compared to affluent, predominantly white communities. G&T programs are often seen as a gateway towards Specialized High School, offering even greater education and academic advancement to students.
The de Blasio Administration has attempted to give greater access to the G&T system, but the report called it “small steps.”
Nine recommendations were made to fix the inequity including guaranteeing a G&T spot to any qualifying student within their community, free test prep service expansion, and free public transportation fare provided by the DOE.
The findings were collected following the creation of the G&T Task force by both borough presidents. The group comprised of educators and parent advocates, collected testimony from parents that was later used to develop the recommendations.
Among those who testified was Theodore James, a Bronx parent, who said at a March 20 hearing that taking his daughter to a Manhattan G&T program posed a logistical problem. “And we didn’t have the funds to pay for a private bus so we had to pass on that opportunity,” James said.
A spokesman for the DOE had told the Norwood News in an article covering the March 20 hearing that it has made it a point to send out mailers explaining the G&T program in multiple languages. “[G]ifted and specialized programs are one option for students and their families. There is much more work to do to ensure equity and excellence at every public school in New York City,” the spokesman said.
For now, Diaz maintains that the Albany Legislature will extend mayoral control of schools, a policy that went in place during the Bloomberg Administration. The policy shifted control away from borough presidents, charged with assigning two members to the defunct Board of Education. Opponents of the Board of Education say the power shift towards that body will create corruption and chaos within the public school system, as evident in years of it before it’s 2002 demise.
“I don’t think that there’s anyone who wants to see the old Board of Education,” Diaz said. “I’m sure that we all have capable individuals that we will be appointing should there be a Board of Education again. I don’t want want to see that. We’re optimistic.”