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Defending New York City’s Merit-Based Educational Opportunities

By March 12, 2021No Comments

On Tuesday, March 9, civil rights attorneys and student plaintiffs filed a lawsuit that accuses the New York City Department of Education of perpetuating racism within public schools via a flawed admissions process favoring white students. The lawsuit seeks to dismantle the public schools’ Gifted & Talented programs by arguing they prop up “artificial racial hierarchies.”

The greatest disadvantage to New York City public school students is not “systemic racism.” New York City students are disadvantaged by the failure of elected officials and bureaucrats to administer schools that teach students core skills. Many schools objectively fail their students. Pre-pandemic, some 71 New York City Department of Education schools had English Language Arts proficiency rates below 20%, and 100 had math proficiency rates below 16%. At the same time, some New York City schools have strong success rates among their students.    

New York City public schools fail to deliver a well-rounded education across the board, especially for many low-income black and Hispanic children. Instead of dismantling the city’s Gifted & Talented programs, our leaders should focus on making sure all children are academically challenged to a degree commensurate with their individual capabilities. That includes retaining and strengthening Gifted & Talented programs that allow more advanced students to perform above their grade level. New York state has blocked the means of creating educational opportunities for students in low-performing schools by setting a cap on the number of charter schools issued in New York City. Academic achievement gaps narrow in public charter schools, yet Democrat leaders oppose school choice. Additionally, city leaders have been focused on changing admission procedures to some high-performing schools instead of expanding access to charter schools and championing the successes of more comprehensive and competitive curriculums.

New York City’s public schools had struggled to meet students’ academic needs long before the pandemic began. Eliminating greater educational opportunities and competitive programs for many students is a path to destruction for the nation’s largest public school district. The New York Young Republican Club urges city leaders to develop and implement a low-achieving school plan while safeguarding academically rigorous programs. We cannot tolerate teaching to the lowest common denominator in the name of “equity.”