Photo via twitter.com/SenatorParker
From left: Senators Kevin Parker, Velmanette Montgomery, John Liu and Jessica Ramos

Two Queens representatives in the state Senate are leading the way toward finding a more open dialogue toward increasing diversity in New York City’s specialized high schools.

Last week, a group of lawmakers, including state Senators John Liu, the chairperson of the Senate’s NYC Education Committee, Jessica Ramos, Velmanette Montgomery, Kevin Parker announced their intent to conduct broad outreach for improved school diversity and admissions process to the city’s specialized high schools. The purpose of outreach will be to identify problems and formulating plans to address the issues.

The New York City Department of Education (DOE) recently released the racial breakdown of students admitted to the eight specialized high schools for the 2019-2020 school year. The data showed that the schools are admitting fewer black and Latino students every year.

According to the DOE report, only 506 black and Latino students out of 4,798 were admitted to specialized high schools. That number translates to 10.5 percent of admissions among black and Latino students and is down from 527 admitted students last year. Out of 1,135,334 public school students in the city, 40.5 percent are Latino and 26 percent are black.

By comparison, about 51 percent of the seats went to Asian students while 28.5 percent went to white students this year.

“The lack of diversity in our specialized high schools and schools citywide remains controversial and emotional, and the plan put forth by the city has only made matters worse,” said Liu. “What we need is open-mindedness and open dialogue in order to build a consensus for a plan going forward.  Through our community forums, we will solicit, facilitate, aggregate and deliberate the concerns and suggestions of school officials, educators, parents, activists and all stakeholders. I have every confidence that this issue, however controversial, can unite rather than divide communities.”

In order to facilitate constructive debate about solutions, the state senators announced that a series of community forums will be held citywide, with a schedule slated to be released this week. According to New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, the assembly will also hold hearings on the matter in early May.

“I am joining Senator Liu today to call for increased conversation around the issue of school diversity in New York City’s specialized high schools,” said Ramos. “Our black and brown children are not being accepted into specialized high schools at the rate they should be, and we need to accept that one test cannot possibly capture the potential of each student. I am looking forward to having more conversations about this issue with my colleagues, parents and students.”

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