The development that a grand total of seven black students were admitted to New York’s prestigious Stuyvesant High School is getting national attention with mounting pressure for lawmakers to determine whether a 33-year old rule written into state law discriminates against people of color.
“These schools are the jewels in the crown for our public school system,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference Wednesday, adding, “This is a city blessed with diversity. Our schools, especially our particularly exceptional schools, need to reflect that diversity.”
Critics say a longstanding single-test admittance policy is racially discriminatory. But hopes for reform remains dim. The policy was written into state law in 1971 and efforts to change the law have not gone far in the state’s senate.
Mr. de Blasio, despite strong language on the matter, did not commit to any legislative changes Wednesday. But the New York Times did report did note a 2011 proposal from a state assemblyman is being redrafted.
At the news conference, Mr. de Blasio expressed optimism that a deal with Albany could be forged, though he has not put forth any specific legislative proposals. He did, however, raise the notion of ensuring that a wider range of students can prepare for the admittance test.
The numbers disclosed by the Education Department showed that of the 28,000 students citywide who took the Specialized High School Admissions Test, 5,701 of them were offered seats. Although 70 percent of the city’s public school students are black and Hispanic, blacks were offered 5 percent of the overall seats and Hispanics 7 percent — the same as a year ago. Asians were offered 53 percent of the seats, compared with 50 percent a year ago; whites were offered 26 percent of seats, compared with 24 percent a year ago.
In Albany, Assemblyman Karim Camara, a Democrat from Brooklyn, is redrafting a bill he introduced in 2011 to change admissions policies at the high schools. As before, the bill seeks to give the city power over admissions, but he said the revised bill would specify what other admissions criteria should be used.