New York’s Parent Revolt

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An activist fighting Bill de Blasio’s plan to scrap merit-based K-12 programs looks back on the last three years.

Asian-American parents of gifted students have not traditionally been an activist constituency. But Mayor Bill de Blasio’s attempts to remove merit from the equation for New York City’s specialized high schools and gifted programs brought a forceful response from those whose children would be affected. Beginning in 2018, many parents—especially, but not exclusively, Asian-Americans—entered the political arena for the first time. Three years later, we have secured some important victories: Asian-Americans made their voices heard in the 2021 elections, incoming mayor Eric Adams has shown signs that he understands these parental concerns, and even de Blasio has expressed some regret for his handling of the issue. But if resistance to these plans largely succeeded in making the mayor back down, progressives haven’t given up the fight to make the specialized schools more “equitable”—or, rather, to equalize outcomes. The fight, in which I have been deeply involved, continues.

With a budget of $38 billion, the New York City Department of Education spends $46,000 per student, triple the U.S. average. But the DOE makes every excuse to avoid accountability for its failures. Its continued attacks on certain students based on their race imperils the accelerated learning opportunities that are often the only reason for families to stay in the city’s public school system.

It all began on the first weekend of June 2018. Most families were focused on the end of the school year when de Blasio announced his plans to change the admissions policies of the specialized high schools to achieve the goal of drastically slashing their enrollment of Asian-American students. The specialized high schools, which determine admission based on a standardized test known as the SHSAT, were largely made up of Asian-American students, with much lower proportions of blacks and Hispanics. De Blasio’s newly appointed schools chancellor, Richard Carranza, reinforced the mayor’s view, saying that no ethnic group owns the specialized high schools.

Read the full article in the City Journal: