Summary

New York is the most diverse American city, but our public schools are the most segregated in the country. Black and Hispanic kids are almost totally locked out of the city’s best schools, and we invest little in public education that serves communities of color. We need to desegregate and revitalize our schools so they can lift up all New Yorkers with the skills and opportunities needed to thrive.

  • Make achievement, not test scores, the basis for admission to specialized high schools
  • Fight for the $4 billion our schools are owed that the Governor refuses to pay
  • End subsidies for charter schools and invest more in public education

New York is the most diverse American city, but our public schools are the most segregated in the country. Black and Hispanic kids are almost totally locked out of the city’s best schools, and we invest little in public education that serves communities of color. We need to desegregate and revitalize our schools so they can lift up all New Yorkers with the skills and opportunities needed to thrive.

  • Make achievement, not test scores, the basis for admission to specialized high schools
  • Fight for the $4 billion our schools are owed that the Governor refuses to pay
  • End subsidies for charter schools and invest more in public education

School segregation pervades New York – so much so that the country’s most segregated schools are found in our own state. The crisis extends from the New York City metro area to upstate cities, suburbs, and rural towns & villages, and encompasses not only racial, but economic, linguistic, and cultural segregation as well.

Statewide, most of our Black and Latinx students attend schools in which White children comprise fewer than 10% of all students. Among our Latinx and Asian American students, racial and linguistic isolation have steadily risen. A majority of Black and Latinx students also experience “double segregation” by both race and class: though roughly half of all public school students are low-income, at least two-thirds of the student body is low-income in schools attended by most Black and Latinx students, whereas only a quarter of the student body is low-income in schools attended by most White students.

New York City also faces an especially pernicious form of racial segregation in the form of charter schools, which act as de facto agents of apartheid: though roughly half of the city’s student population is White, nearly three-quarters of all NYC charter schools contain student bodies that are less than 1% White.

For decades, both Albany and City Hall have turned a blind eye to school segregation. An entire generation of New Yorkers has never seen any large-scale effort at racial or economic integration; indeed, for a majority of those who were born & raised in New York and are now parents, segregation is the only educational reality that they have ever known. Many of us may not even be aware of segregation’s effects on educational, economic, and health outcomes.

The roots of school segregation are complex and deep. To uproot it, we must be willing to radically re-envision our admissions policies, funding formulas, suspension policies, teacher training and hiring practices, and zoning regulations. We must build a student- and parent-led movement to transform the network of educational, budgetary, and housing systems that produce segregation and dismantle brutal legacy of segregation once and for all.

First, we must immediately undo the recurring harms perpetuated by the legacy of segregation. That means:

  • Enact full state funding of our public schools in accordance with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) court decisions, which currently mandate over $4 billion in overdue state Foundation Aid. The only way to accomplish this critical goal is if our Assembly Members and State Senators firmly demand a state budget that is truly CFE-compliant. I pledge to vote “No” on the budget bill unless the condition of full CFE-compliance is met.
  • Abolish municipal screened admissions policies that allow schools to prioritize admissions offers based on residential proximity – i.e., whether the student applicant resides in the same Community School District. Schools that give preference to students based on geography reinforce, and in some cases exacerbate, not only the racial and economic segregation in New York City’s middle and high schools but also the already close correlation between the two. I will introduce legislation to bar such residence-based screening policies in all municipalities.
  • Abolish the SHSAT by repealing the Hecht-Calendra Act, which mandates that 3 of NYC’s 9 Specialized High Schools rely solely on the SHSAT to determine admission. Though Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech represent but a tiny fraction of the entire state high school student population, the impact of their admissions policies is much broader because of their potential to shape the broader discourse on educational equity. I will champion legislation to repeal Hecht-Calendra and advocate replacing the SHSAT with an admissions process that is identical or similar to the one proposed by NAACP LDF (which advocates a system based primarily on grades and geographic diversity) in order to advance racial, economic, and cultural integration while maintaining a student culture of proven academic ability & dedication.
  • Replace current suspension policies with disciplinary procedures that center restorative justice practices as the first option and suspensions as a final resort. The last thing we need is for our public school systems to serve as agents of the school-to-prison pipeline, which produces disastrous educational, economic, and health outcomes for Black & Brown students and contributes to mass incarceration. I will work closely with community-based organizations, including the Urban Youth Collaborative, the NYC Alliance for School Integration & Desegregation and the Alliance for Quality Education, to support or otherwise introduce legislation that would proactively disrupt this pipeline, beginning with measures that effectuate a massive reduction in school suspensions.
  • Mandate statewide outreach to all parents informing them of their children’s right to opt out of all state-administered standardized testing. There is a strong, grassroots movement of parents who are aware of the harmful effects of high-stakes testing and who are organizing in ever larger numbers. However, many communities – particularly those whose first language is not English – remain largely untouched by this movement. I believe that the State of New York has an obligation to advise all parents of the potential harms of high-stakes testing and to notify them of their children’s rights to decline to sit for State Tests.
  • Stop de facto punishments for students who opt-out. Barring the use of standardized tests in admissions is a worthy goal that I will champion, but it will also be a serious challenge requiring a sustained, broad-based effort. In the meantime, I will also champion legislation that would explicitly guarantee that any refusal to take a state-administered standardized test may not be used negatively to affect one’s chance of admission to any public school or program therein.
  • Mandate biennial governmental assessment of which learning supports are necessary to ensure that all students who are English Language Learners (ELLs) or students with learning differences/disabilities no longer face recurring, institutional disadvantages in their formal K-12 education. Currently, the main barrier to ELLs and students with learning differences is lack of full funding in compliance with the CFE court decisions. However, even if and once full state funding is provided, these vulnerable student populations will continue to face additional barriers to learning unless we are already prepared to address them. I will support legislation to mandate that the State of New York employ a panel of teachers and education policy advocates to conduct regular assessments of which services, infrastructure, and other learning supports are necessary in order to ensure the fulfillment of every student’s constitutionally guaranteed right to a sound, basic education.
  • Mandate that all K-12 curricula and teacher certification programs be subject to biennial review by a panel of teachers and policy advocates who are experts in culturally responsive and sustaining (CR-SE) education and are empowered to mandate changes in curricula to address structural racism, sexism, xenophobia, transphobia, ableism, and other structural prejudices found in public school curricula. I will support legislation requiring that every two years all K-12 curricula and all teacher certification curricula be subject to assessments specifically of their adequacy in meeting culturally responsive pedagogical norms so that our everyone in diverse student body will see themselves in what they are learning, feel recognized, and become more invested in the educational process.

Second, we must address the institutional causes of segregation. That means:

  • Repeal and replace our reliance on local property taxes as a source of school funding. The status quo system perpetuates racial, economic, linguistic, & cultural segregation, and it does so primarily by incentivizing wealthier White parents to live in wealthier White neighborhoods and perpetuate zoning laws that keep out poorer Black, Latinx, & Asian households. These settlement patterns in turn incentivize local and state representatives with more power in the state budget process to fight for full funding of their own school districts at cost to other, less powerful districts. I will introduce legislation to democratize the school funding system by repealing the current education funding formula, which relies in significant part on local property tax collections, and instead replace it with a formula based solely on statewide tax collections and federal revenue sources.
  • Ensure that school funding is equitably allocated to account for not only the number of students per school but also the race, economic status (household income & wealth), native language, and special needs of the student population of each school. As we transition from a funding system dependent on local privilege to one that democratizes that privilege throughout the state, educational equity requires that our funding system address structural inequities along racial, economic, and cultural lines. To that end, I will introduce whatever measures may be necessary to continue to improve our funding system based on the latest research documenting links between educational inputs and education, health, and economic outputs.
  • End high-stakes test-based admissions to all schools and programs. The social science is clear: test-based admissions processes perpetuate economic & racial segregation. I will introduce legislation that would not only bar the use of standardized tests in admissions to any public school or to any program within these schools, such as the Gifted & Talented Program, but would also explicitly guarantee that declining to take such a standardized test may not to negatively affect one’s chance of admission to any public school.
  • Close the teacher racial gap. While more than 80% of NYC’s students are Black, Latinx, or Asian, only 40% of teachers are. Though 15% of all NYC students are White, the percent of teachers who are White is 58%, nearly 4 times larger. Thanks to decades of research, there is now concrete evidence to back up what we have long intuitively known: namely, that having a teacher whose likeness and life experiences resemble those of the student increases the probability that the teacher will be seen as a role model who can successfully raise expectations of what the student can accomplish and therefore improve student achievement. I will use my bully pulpit during contract negotiations to publicly support the provision of more equitable compensation for those teachers with more difficult working conditions and to follow the advice of minority teachers whose experiences ought to serve as the bedrock of any legislative policy designed to improve either recruitment or retention of minority teachers.
  • Desegregate residential neighborhoods. Segregation in education is intimately tied to segregation in housing; the more integrated our residential neighborhoods are, the more integrated will be our schools. I will work closely with housing and planning advocates to craft nuanced zoning laws at the state level that would restrict the de facto ability of municipalities to exclude low-income households from high-wealth neighborhoods through the maintenance of low levels of residential & commercial density; conversely, we will also craft zoning provisions that would restrict the power of municipalities to upzone low-wealth neighborhoods without concomitant increased investments in public infrastructure.