The Case for Diverse Schools to Benefit All NYC Children

KinderkidsYears of research has shown that diverse, integrated schools benefit children from all backgrounds yet recent studies confirm that New York City has the most segregated school system in the entire country. This sorting of haves and have-nots has created a large number of struggling schools that fail to provide a quality of education that all children in NYC deserve. Current plans for rezoning in both DUMBO and the Upper West Side have brought a lot attention to this great divide and have highlighted the challenges of overcoming segregation caused by a variety of factors including DOE zoning policy, geography, real estate, and community choice.

However, recently there have been many voices across the city asking the DOE and Mayor to find a way to allow schools to create admissions policies that foster diversity (in fact the Community Education Council in District 13 has considered several ideas, including a process called controlled choice.)  Up until now, the DOE has roundly ignored these requests, perhaps stymied by a legal footnote that has made creating any kind of income-based or race-based admissions quotas against the law. Certainly the challenges are huge with more than 1.1 million kids in the NYC public education system, but Chancellor Carmen Farina and Mayor Bill de Blasio have basically thrown their hands up, stating that creating desegregated schools in New York is nearly impossible. Instead, they are focusing efforts on building up individual schools to give families “school choice” as a way to encourage desegregation, but it has been demonstrated that this kind of choice can only make the situation worse.  Unfortunately there are many parts of this city where families have few good options to choose from apart from charter schools.  Without any significant leadership on this issue, New York will likely remain a “tale of two cities” for many years to come.