(This is a guest post by Yiatin Chu, Maud Maron, and Amy Tse, Founding Members of Parent Leaders for Accelerated Curricula and Education, a.k.a. PLACE NYC.)
On December 12th, 2019, over 100 parents crowded around lunchroom tables of East Side Middle School to hear State Senator John Liu speak about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal to scrap the SHSAT.
Senator Liu began with a primer on the difference between Foundation Aid, which is the formula the State uses to send education money to NYC, and Fair Student Funding (FSF) which is the formula NYC employs to fund individual schools, and touched upon the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) lawsuit which NYC schools and students have yet to fully collect on.
As to be expected, he received many questions about the future of the SHSAT, as well as the fate of G&T programs, and academically screened schools in light of SDAG (School Diversity Advisory Group) recommending their elimination. PLACE NYC parents believe there is a direct link between rigorous and challenging curriculum in all communities and the ability to have greater diversity in the Specialized High Schools.
Senator Liu offered straightforward answers:
“I think the repeal of existing state laws [is not] realistic, neither do I think there will be a new state law that mandates more special high schools or by extension, gifted and talented programs.”
The senator did not believe the SHSAT would be eliminated because “if you believe the newspapers,” the Mayor has backed away from the bill proposed last year in Albany.
He said, however, that some legislators were talking about eliminating Hecht-Calandra, the law governing admission to the specialized high schools, which would place admissions decisions in the hands of the Mayor. He also indicated that the Chancellor continues to lobby against the SHSAT by arguing that other states and other countries, have moved away from single test admissions.
Senator Liu predicted a media outcry similar to last year’s when the exam results were announced, which he believed would inevitably invite a “political solution.” “Even though there are technically eight specialized high schools now, the focus is still on the original three. I believe if we increased it to 20, there’s still going to be a great deal of emphasis on the original three.”
With regard to PLACE’s call to increase schools with accelerated curriculum, Senator Liu concurred, “so the answer to the question of should there be more specialized high schools? I think there should be. I think there should be more G&T programs.”
He also called for transparency:
“We should have more G&T programs but we should also be much more transparent about the screening process. At least with the specialized high schools, the process is very simple. It’s very clear. I shouldn’t say simple, it’s not an easy admissions process to get through, but it’s clear.”
“Some of the G&T programs, the admissions process is not clear. It’s very opaque and that lends credence to some of the critics who say that the G&T programs are actually ways to further segregation which I do believe has happened in the past. The question is, does it still happen today? And the only way to find out, is [to ask] if there is 100% transparency into how G&T programs are run in the City of New York.”
The last question of the evening provided the Senator with the opportunity to share a longer, broader view of the role of public education. In response to an attendee question on whether the DOE should foot the bill for any NYC high schools graduates who must pay for remedial classes before beginning college work, Senator Liu gave an unexpected answer. He noted that this is a recurring issue at CUNY and said we should consider taking a long view to what public education should be. He suggested we need to think about “K-16 instead of K-12” as the education which would realistically prepare young people for today’s world.