New York City

New Yorkers clash over proposal to abolish gifted school programs

Critics say the plan would “ruin so many lives.”

A student taking a standardized test.

A student taking a standardized test. Lisa F. Young/Shutterstock

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is considering a radical solution to segregation in city schools’ gifted programs: burn it all down.

The School Diversity Advisory Group, a panel appointed by the mayor, suggested that getting rid of most gifted programs and screened schools could seriously help desegregate schools in the city, The New York Times reports. News of the panel’s recommendations have elicited reactions ranging from supportive to outraged. 

Some cheered the possibility of terminating these programs.

But others scoffed, with some arguing that such a drastic move could hurt many of the same kids the proposal seeks to help.

The city has long been criticized for racial segregation in its schools, but the outrage intensified after only seven black students were accepted into the elite Styvueseant High School this March. Currently, the specialized schools in the city are mostly occupied by white and Asian students, while the city’s Hispanic and black students are often relegated to low-testing schools, or forced to travel great distances to attend gifted programs and screened schools in other neighborhoods. This is especially concerning considering the public school system’s student body is 66.5% black and Hispanic, according to the city’s Department of Education.

The proposals put forth by the advisory group would include the elimination of gifted programs and screening for students enrolled in kindergarten through high school – though the seven specialized high schools such as Stuyvesant, which are partially controlled by the state, would be exempt, the Times reports. Programs currently in place would be slowly phased out by not accepting new students, and screened high schools would be removed and replaced with magnet schools.

If the city were to adopt the plan, the city runs the risk of thousands of families – mostly white and Asian families – leaving the city’s education system, fleeing to the suburbs or private schools instead, which would make integrating schools even harder, according to the Times. There may also be pushback from those in predominantly black and Hispanic communities who have been arguing that their communitiesneed more gifted programs – not fewer.

Now all eyes are on de Blasio, who could order the eradication of these programs without the state Legislature or City Council’s approval. Though Hizzoner made it clear that he is still reviewing the advisory group’s recommendations and is not ready to make any decisions just yet.

“It’s literally a recommendation that just came out,” de Blasio said on “Morning Joe” Tuesday morning. “I’m going to assess it.”