With Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to remake admissions to the city’s specialized high school flatlined, the City Council voted Tuesday to form a new task force to address diversity at the eight elite campuses.
Council Education Committee Chairman Mark Treyger derided City Hall’s presentation of their proposal, arguing that they failed to adequately engage key segments of the community.
“Many of the policy proposals put forth by the de Blasio administration did not involve the most critical stakeholders — students, parents, and the larger communities that would be directly impacted by the proposals,” he said.
The task force members will be named by both de Blasio and the City Council, he said.
“We promised that the council would take a different approach and that any legislation we passed would involve community input — a conversation driven from the bottom up, not the top down,” Treyger said.
Opponents of the current admissions system — which hinges on a single test score — argue that has been an instrument of exclusion for black and Hispanic kids who comprise 70 percent of the system.
Critics also assert that it benefits kids with the resources for professional exam tutoring.
Backers counter that the system is inherently colorblind and has helped to cultivate some of the top academic schools in the country.
The campuses are currently 62 percent Asian and 24 percent white, while the total Hispanic and black student population sits at just 9 percent.
Councilman Joe Borelli of Staten Island was the lone dissenting vote Tuesday, arguing that the political fixation with specialized schools was misplaced.
He argued that the schools enroll a minuscule subset of city kids but command outsized attention from city officials.
Borelli contended that middle schools — where more than half of city kids failed basic math and English exams last — should be the priority.
The Department of Education, he said, “has no plan to address the failings of the teachers and the administrators.”
Treyger said that task force will present recommendations for integrating the specialized high schools by next May and that he hopes Albany will treat them seriously and consider enactment.
Education Equity, a pro-test organization backed by powerhouse businessmen Ronald Lauder and Richard Parsons, said it hopes the task force will consider their prescriptions for boosting diversity at the schools.
“Now that the Mayor has dumped his fatally flawed plan, this task force has an opportunity to be a real step forward,” said group leader Kirsten Foy. “We hope the council will use this as an opportunity to appoint members who reflect the views of a majority of black and brown New York City parents: which is that we need a comprehensive plan — like the one our campaign has proposed — to lift up students and tackle the shameful inequities throughout our public school system.“
Education Equity has endorsed a plan by state Sen. Leroy Comrie of Queens that would double the number of specialized high school seats, expand Gifted and Talented programs, offer universal free test prep, allow kids to take the exam on a school day and create a separate task force to vet the state of city middle schools.
But top city officials – including de Blasio and schools Chancellor Richard Carranza – have flatly stated their opposition to any single test system.