June 7, 2018 By Tara Law
Congresswoman Grace Meng condemned the mayor for not taking input from the Asian community on a plan to admit more black, Latino, female and low-income students to New York City’s specialized high schools.
Meng, New York’s highest ranking Asian-American official, criticized Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza for failing to consult the Asian and Pacific Islander community— who make up the majority of students at specialized high schools— on the plan to phase out the single-admissions “SHSAT” test over three years.
Under the plan the mayor announced Saturday, seats to each specialized high school would go to top students at each middle school based on class rank and scores on statewide tests.
The city says its plan would see 45 percent of specialized high school offers going to black and Latino students, compared to 9 percent currently. Blacks and Hispanics make up 70 percent of the city’s school population.
The plan requires a new state law. While the bill passed in the Assembly Education Committee yesterday, State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said today that the bill would not be voted on this session, according to NY1 News. The announcement means the bill won’t be deliberated on until next year, as the legislative session ends on June 20.
Meng said in a statement Wednesday that she agreed many “students are being left behind,” but argued that the mayor should have consulted Asian American politicians.
Approximately 62 percent of students at the City’s specialized high schools are of Asian descent, including many from Meng’s district.
The mayor’s office also said that the plan would expand the number of offers to female students— from 44 percent of offers to 62 percent— and quadruple the number of offers to students from the Bronx.
“There are talented students all across the five boroughs, but for far too long our specialized high schools have failed to reflect the diversity of our city,” de Blasio said. “We cannot let this injustice continue. By giving a wider, more diverse pool of our best students an equal shot at admissions, we will make these schools stronger and our City fairer.”
Meng contends that by attempting to be fairer to certain ethnic groups, the bill has actually excluded others— namely, the Asian community— from the discussion about school admissions.
“As an elected official, I am also disappointed that the mayor and chancellor failed to convene a meeting of all relevant stakeholders, including the City’s [Asian and Pacific Islander] elected officials, before they unveiled a proposal that seeks to dismantle how the City’s most successful high schools operate,” Meng said. “To exclude impacted communities from such discussions, or to pit them against one another, is not leadership.”
Meng also pointed to language by Carranza who appeared to directly target the Asian community.
She criticized Carranza for statements he made on Fox 5 News New York on Tuesday that described Asian Americans’ admissions success as evidence of a problem.
“I just don’t buy into the narrative that any one ethnic group owns admission to these schools,” Carranza said to Fox 5.
Meng responded that Asian Americans should not be penalized for doing well academically.
“I also take issue with reported comments made by the chancellor about one ethnic group owning admission to specialized high schools,” Meng said. “I am insulted, and these comments are false. Asian Americans aren’t trying to own admission to these schools.”
Meng suggested that the plan should focus on creating more specialized school and requesting more resources from Albany.
“Instead of focusing on comprehensive reform in one effort, the mayor’s legislative push concerning how eight well-performing schools operate isn’t a serious policy proposal; it’s a headline,” Meng said.
The mayor also announced a plan to expand the City’s “Discovery” program, which is within the City’s power to implement immediately.
The changes will set aside 20 percent of specialized high schools seats for students from high poverty schools.