You Call These “Public” Schools? Unconscionable Segregation in NYC’s Specialized High Schools

Segregation won another round in New York City’s most elite “public” schools. The admission numbers are out and they are pathetic. Black and Latino children make up 67.6 percent of the students in NYC schools, yet only 10 percent of the students were admitted to the selective high schools. And get this, only one—yes one—Black student was admitted to Staten Island Technical High School.

For all those charter critics who complain about segregation or creaming of students: You have a bigger mess to clean up in your own front yard before you come snooping around the charters. Chalkbeat covered the numbers in some more detail, but there is no way to spin this story positively.

Every year it’s the same thing with the specialized high schools,; maybe next year there will be some marginal increase like from 10 percent to 11 percent. Maybe two Black kids will get into Staten Island Tech next year.

This should be a scandal for anyone worried about equity. These schools are gateways to better college options and they pretty much shut out Black and Latino children. And, remember, we call these “public” schools, paid for by public tax dollars with a mission to serve the public.

So where is the outrage? Where are the calls for reform? Where are those critics who are so worried about the alleged segregating effect of charter schools? They seem to be notably silent.

Let’s be clear. The most segregated charter in NYC is nowhere near as segregated as any of the specialized high schools. I challenge anyone to make a straight-faced argument that any of these schools is more “public” than any charter. This isn’t to excuse any charter shenanigans—I just want to focus on a better working definition of “public schools.” We need a definition that actually embraces our democratic ideals of inclusion, equitable treatment, and transparency.

And this is not a NYC-only problem, though NYC is by far the most egregious.  You can see disparities in other cities as well, although you can also see that some, like Chicago, are making substantial progress and others, like Boston, may be backsliding.  But policies and political will matter in changing these facts on the ground.

Here are the numbers,  according to a recent report

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So next time y’all want to start throwing rocks at the charters while shirking the specialized school challenge, you might want to watch out. That glass house you are standing in can’t withstand scrutiny.

(This piece was originally posted at Great School Voices.)

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