In an op-ed in Chalkbeat on Sunday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his plan to diversify New York City's Specialized High Schools, which includes eliminating the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) and offering more summer session spots to economically disadvantaged students. Reaction to the mayor's proposal was mixed, with some Asian-American groups swiftly condemning the plan as racially biased.
The Department of Education has struggled to find ways to diversify these specialized high schools. While black and Hispanic students account for 67 percent of public school students, they only made up 10 percent of the offers at these specialized high schools in the most recent school year. Asian-Americans, who make up 16 percent of public school students, received 52 percent of the offers in the past year.
Kenneth Chiu, president of the New York City Asian-American Democratic Club, spoke to NY1 on Monday at a meeting in Sunset Park. "He never had this problem when Stuyvesant [High School] was all white. He never had this problem when Stuyvesant was all Jewish," Chiu said. "All of a sudden, they see one too many Chinese and they say, 'Hey, it isn't right.'"
De Blasio was also accused of stereotyping against Asian-Americans who attend, or strive to attend, these specialized high schools. “De Blasio is a little biased,” Karlin Chan said, speaking to CBS2 on Monday. “It showed implicit bias when he said all Asians are economically sound, well, we can afford tutoring. That sounds like a racist statement to me that reinforces a negative stereotype.”
A lot of “vote them out!” cries over proposed changes to the specialized high school exam from Asian American advocacy groups. pic.twitter.com/CdPFfRdrCL
— Lindsey Christ (@LindseyChrist) June 4, 2018
Alumni groups also pushed back against the mayor's plan, accusing de Blasio of being divisive, CBS 2 reports. “He can’t be the mayor of just one or two groups. He needs to be the mayor of New York City,” said Stuyvesant’s Chris Kwok.
The mayor has criticized the test prep industry as creating barriers for students who want to attend these specialized high schools, but some Asian-American groups say that test prep is what allows poor students to succeed. "For new immigrants, the test [is] something that is a leveling factor. It's easy to prepare for, they know about it, they can buy a book or they can buy a course," said Kwok, speaking to NY1. "So it's a ladder of success for them."
Lulu Zhou, director of A+ Academy, a test prep company, told WNYC that that this new plan "very much negatively affects our community, because our community is a heavily Asian immigrant community — very, very poor,”
During an appearance on the Brian Lehrer show today, New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza insisted this new plan is "not trying to penalize anyone," arguing that the proposal to eliminate the SHSAT "should be good news for poor immigrant families" because they are "not going to have to spend thousands on prep."
The proposal to eliminate the SHSAT would require legislative action from Albany. Governor Cuomo has said on Monday that he doesn't believe that this issue will be addressed this year. A protest opposing this plan is scheduled at City Hall Park for today at 2 PM, as well as on Sunday, June 10 at 1 PM.
Education reporter from Politico NY, Eliza Shapiro, spoke with WNYC's All Things Considered Jami Floyd yesterday about de Blasio's proposal. Listen below: