Opinion: De Blasio's education policies are failing black and Hispanic students

Opinion: De Blasio's education policies are failing black and Hispanic students

Opinion: De Blasio's education policies are failing black and Hispanic students
August 26, 2015

After the state test scores were released earlier this month, Mayor Bill de Blasio stood up at a press conference and told New Yorkers that “everyone has a share in this success today, and it’s something to be very, very proud of.”

I couldn’t help but wonder what success the mayor was talking about. 

This year’s test results showed that more than 200,000 black and Latino children couldn’t read or do math at grade level – but de Blasio called this “progress.” The total number of black children who passed their math and English assessments actually decreased.

The inequality in educational opportunity is widening under de Blasio. By trapping kids in failing public schools with expensive, unproven experiments like “Renewal” schools, and opposing efforts to give low-income families of color the right to choose better schools, like quality charter options, the mayor is doing little to bridge the gap between his“Tale of Two Cities.”

At his press conference, the mayor ignored the lack of true progress for black and Hispanic students so that he could sell his version of whatprogress looks like. His vision of “success” is apparently a divided school system where the gap between the haves and the have-nots is only getting worse. 

These test scores aren’t simply a jumble of numbers to me. My son is one of those 200,000 children stuck in a school that is failing him. He goes to a failing district school where his teachers barely pay attention to him. I only hear from his school when they’re calling about a problem. He comes home with little or no homework. I know this school is not giving my son theresources he is entitled to as a student in New York.

I know what another year in a failing school means for him – the stakes are too high. As a black male in today’s society, the odds are stacked against him. His future will be determined by whether or not he can get access to a quality school. Here’s what makes me angry: In today’s New York, the chances of that are still slim to none. 

I know I’m not the only parent who feels this way. As I thought more about what this means for my neighbors in Harlem, I couldn’t help but think about how hopeful many of us were when de Blasio was elected.

I remember when he promised to end income inequality in New York. This promise inspired many black New Yorkers during his campaign, including me, to cast a vote for him. I never thought that, to years later, educational opportunity for black children in New York City would actually decline, or that white students would be making twice as much progress as black students. That certainly is not what we signed up for. 

Ending the “Tale of Two Cities” means that de Blasio has to end New York’s Tale of Two School Systems. But since de Blasio took office, we’ve seen plenty of big announcements but not enough results. The families that I know haven’t seen the bold change that was promised; we have seen more of the same.

What makes this so frustrating is that we know what works in our schools. New York City’s best schools are proving that any child can succeed. So then why is it that the mayor has fought to limit school choice? Why is he trying to keep us out of the very schools that we know will make a difference for our kids? 

If de Blasio wants to talk about “progress” that actually speaks to black New Yorkers, he has to stop ignoring the educational crises that are hurting black children in this city. He must find a way to give parents an option to go to a good school that doesn't involve wasting three critical years of students’ lives in an ill-fated attempt to turn persistently failing schools around. And he must stop opposing charter schools – which most parents in my neighborhood desperately want access to. 

It’s time for the mayor to live up to the promises he made to New Yorkers. Parents like me cannot afford to wait any longer.


Della Brave is a parent of two public school students in Harlem.

Della Brave