Queens lawmakers and parents protest elimination of Gifted and Talented program

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Parents Jie Liu, of Bayside (l.) and Amy Tse, of Fresh Meadows, are calling on the city to reform and expand the Gifted and Talented program in New York City public schools. (Photo by Carlotta Mohamed)

Several Queens lawmakers were joined by a group of concerned parents outside of P.S. 203 The Oakland Gardens School on Friday, Oct. 15, to protest the elimination of the Gifted and Talented program, which has been widely criticized for exacerbating segregation in the nation’s largest public school system.

“I’m afraid for my youngest child next year if the G&T program is cut,” said Bayside resident Jie Liu, a parent of two children who are in the program. “I think they should expand the program citywide, and not cut it because a lot of kids want to get a better education and more opportunities.”  

Another parent, Amy Tse, of Fresh Meadows, says she is fighting for all children, who have different learning capabilities. 

“Children learn at different levels. It’s really hard, and I know this from personal experience to service kids with varying levels from where they’re at in one classroom with 30 kids — it’s near impossible,” Tse said. 

Jie and Tse were among the lawmakers gathered outside of P.S. 203, located at 53-11 Springfield Blvd., for a press conference organized by City Council Democratic nominees Sandra Ung and Linda Lee, who criticized Mayor Bill de Blasio for scrapping the G&T program without consulting parents, educators and stakeholders in the community. 

Queens lawmakers and parents protest the termination of the Gifted and Talented program in New York City public schools at P.S. 203 in Bayside on Friday, Oct. 15. (Photo by Carlotta Mohamed)

De Blasio announced the end of the G&T program on Oct. 8, that will be replaced with accelerated learning for individual kids beginning in third grade that won’t separate them into special classes.

According to the mayor, G&T students will remain in their programming without disruption to their learning, and the city’s new plan, Brilliant NYC, will be phased in for grades one through three. Starting with kindergarten in September 2022, accelerated learning will be offered to all 65,000 kindergarteners. 

Teachers will receive training to provide individualized instruction for students. 

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution,” Ung said. “Our students learn at different paces. There are kids who excel and need more help, and we need to make sure we accommodate all those different levels of learning. The teachers will be given all of that burden to run these classes.” 

Lee is calling for an expansion of G&T programs in every school district. 

“We need to expand opportunities. In District 20, we do not have a G&T program and that’s an issue,” said Lee, whose son attends P.S. 203. “Every student should not have to travel far to get a quality education. We should also think about the services to family members, making sure they have after school programs and tutoring that they need.” 

Congresswoman Grace Meng shared Lee’s sentiments, citing a few school districts that have multiple G&T programs or none at all. 

“These programs should be more equitable for every single child in every neighborhood regardless of socioeconomic status,” Meng said. “The G&T curriculums enrich our kids and provide them with crucial opportunities that help them excel and reach their full potential inside and beyond the classroom.” 

Senator John Liu, chairperson of the Senate’s Committee on NYC Education and a graduate of the G&T program at P.S. 203, said the elimination of the G&T program has sent thousands of families and students into limbo and uncertainty, as a new mayoral administration is taking place. 

“It is politics at its worst and it’s a reminder of the terrible legacy that de Blasio will leave behind as we boot him out from City Hall on Dec. 31,” Liu said. “The G&T program has to remain an option since it recognizes that children learn at different rates and should be given the opportunity to learn as much as they can within the confines of the city’s public schools.” 

Meanwhile, Councilman Barry Grodenchik said the city’s plan has no input from the most important people — parents, children and educators who weren’t involved in the process.

“It is dead on arrival here in New York City. My dear late mentor, friend and former boss, Claire Shulman, used to say you can kill anything. Well, this plan is going to be killed, and I can guarantee you that. I have no doubt about that,” Grodenchik said.