As we approach the 65th anniversary ofBrown v. Board of Education
being decided, it is all the more clear and disturbing that students in New York City don't need to read about segregation in their history books, they are living it in their classrooms. Our schools have always been segregated and we've never fully realized the goals set out in Brown v. Board of Education. Even though legal segregation has long been unconstitutional, far too many of our schools remain separate and unequal; underfunded and devalued. We still fail to properly resource our schools, starting from the federal government on down to the city. I'm a public school baby, and I'm proud of that fact and the education I got. I'm also a specialized high school alumni. But despite that pride and because of that history, I know that our system, and our students, are in desperate need of reform.
The conversation about diversity in education has long been focused on the Specialized High School Admissions Test. This presents the false impression, the false narrative, that segregation begins and ends in our specialized high schools- nothing could be further from the truth. This segregation is pervasive throughout our entire system, including at the elite multiple-criteria schools which already exist. We need to discuss these schools, yes, but not without the context of the rest of the system- where segregated middle and elementary schools cement a system that impedes advancement and substandard schools citywide drive the cutthroat process of high school admissions which only deepens division. Educational segregation goes beyond eight schools, or one test, and we need to recognize that the failures of our system on race also speak to economic, geographic, and cultural division and disenfranchisement. It also highlights a lack of funding in some areas, for some students. We need to ensure, it is the mandate of our government, that every student in New York City can get a quality education regardless of zip code or family income.
The legislation that I move forward today would codify the mayoral school diversity advisory group. This group would consist of the Mayor, Speaker, DOE educators, students, experts in culturally responsible education, parents of students from all five boroughs, and representatives of community based organizations. That group would be charged with conducting public hearings, considering public testimony, and reporting annually on integration efforts in our city and how to move forward. Among the metrics considered would be setting racial & socio-economic diversity goals and how best to track progress, how DOE can support diversification, professional development of DOE employees, how the DOE can better change funding formulas to better address inequality, accessibility/integration of students with disabilities, pedagogy and curriculum, school climate, restorative justice and practices, and parent/teacher empowerment. The Department of Education would then report on their implementation or failure to implement those recommendations.
This legislation is just one of many steps we can take- some of which are the purview of and will be discussed in today's hearing, and others which will not. I implore my colleagues in government, city and state, to hear from and truly listen to all voices- from administrators and teachers to parents and students. I further ask that parents and other individuals who consider themselves progressive to be mindful of their reactions to the realities of segregation, and to have a willingness not just to recognize the problems, but to acknowledge some of the necessary steps toward correcting them. This issue is not about special interests, but students' interests- and confronting the inherent segregation in our system is vital to our students' future."