By Carlotta Mohamed
State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) and state Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) are standing firm in their opposition against the mayor’s proposal to phase out the admissions test into specialized high schools.
Both elected officials testified in support of the SHSAT at the Community Education Council 25 meeting held Oct. 3 at PS 21Q Edward Hart School, located at 147-36 26th Ave. in Flushing.
Stavisky said she supports having both diversity and the SHSAT exam.
“I believe we must keep the test because the SHSAT does not recognize race, gender, religion, or ethnicity. It is still the most objective method to determine admission,” said Stavisky.
In June, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to increase enrollment of disadvantaged students and scrapping the single admission test through new legislation.
According to de Blasio, only 10 percent of specialized high school students are black or Latino, despite the fact black and Latino people make up 70 percent of the city’s overall population.
In response to de Blasio’s plan, local elected officials have taken action to stop the passage of the legislation.
“I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure that this ill-conceived plan never becomes law,” said Braunstein. “I am proud to have successfully worked along with Sen. Stavisky and my colleagues in the Assembly Asian Pacific American Task Force in June to successfully block the passage of the mayor’s proposed legislation, and we will continue to fight it when we return to Albany in January.”
Stavisky and Braunstein were the only elected officials to testify at the meeting. Both lawmakers have worked closely with the advocates to provide alternatives to the elimination of the exam, including better preparing children at a younger age for academic excellence and building new Specialized High Schools.
Phil Wong, of Flushing, rallied with parents outside of the school who are a part of the Coalition EDU — a network of alumni, students, parents, and others who support the traditions of the Specialized High Schools of New York City.
The group voiced its concerns during the meeting and condemned the mayor’s proposal.
The parents are opposed to changes to the Specialized High School admission criteria that are based on race, ethnicity and lottery. The admission criteria should be only merit based, Wong said.
“This means good students will be denied the best schools, and students who are not prepared will be inserted into the best schools,” said Wong.
According to Wong, failing students who get inserted into specialized high schools will have a little chance of succeeding simply because they’re unable to keep up with the work.
“We are telling the mayor and chancellor today that this so-called reform does not fix our schools. The parents, teachers, and students will all be victims of this experiment,” Wong said in his speech. “He is denying admissions to Asians and then replacing the current SHSAT with a race-based quota. We all know from Brown vs. Board of Education that school admissions based on race is illegal and cannot be enforced. I envision lawsuits will be filed to stop these racist policies from being implemented.”
Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmoha