Some major dollars are being put in place to keep New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio from getting rid of admissions tests for leading high schools.
By: Howard M. Riell
Among the billionaires writing checks is said to be cosmetics king Ron Lauder, who graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1961. He reportedly said this week that he would spend a million dollars or more to stop de Blasio’s plan, much of it on television commercials.
“The campaign will target Albany lawmakers, whom the mayor needs to amend a 1971 state law that created the Specialized High School Admission Test — and may even include attack ads against de Blasio,” a source is said to have told the New York Post.
Lauder reportedly circulated an email in which he explained that he was “joining a new effort called the Education Equity Campaign to achieve the goal of creating new Specialized High Schools” and “will be helping this campaign however I can.”
Lauder continued, “It’s my firm belief that we should be doubling the capacity of our specialized high schools by adding two new schools in each borough, guaranteeing free SHSAT prep for every New York City middle school student and ensuring that students in every school have access to a local Gifted and Talented program from an early age. “With these reforms, we could once again make our city’s education system second to none.”
It was nearly a year ago that de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza announced a new plan to make admissions to New York City’s eight testing Specialized High Schools fairer and improve diversity. Only 10 percent of specialized high school students are Black or Latino, despite making up 70 percent of the City’s overall student population, they said.
The two-part plan includes expanding the Discovery program to help more disadvantage students receive an offer. “The Discovery program is designed to increase enrollment of low-income students at Specialized High Schools,” the mayor’s office noted. “We will immediately expand the program to 20 percent of seats at each SHS and adjust the eligibility criteria to target students attending high-poverty schools. This would be a two-year expansion, beginning with admissions for September 2019. Based on modeling of current offer patterns, an estimated 16 percent of offers would go to black and Latino students, compared to 9 percent currently.”
“There are talented students all across the five boroughs, but for far too long our specialized high schools have failed to reflect the diversity of our city,” said de Blasio. “We cannot let this injustice continue. By giving a wider, more diverse pool of our best students an equal shot at admissions, we will make these schools stronger and our City fairer.”