New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced some big changes to the educational infrastructure in the Big Apple today, in a move that appears to be designed to drive wealthy parents and children away from public schools, and perhaps out of the city altogether.
Making no bones about his stance on wealth New Yorkers, many of whom have already fled the city, de Blasio said "I like to say very bluntly: our mission is to redistribute wealth. A lot of people bristle at that phrase, that is in fact the phrase we need to use."
He touted his new plans for removing admissions standards for the city's top middle schools, pulling geographic prioritization from high school admissions, and increasing diversity criteria for a school system that is divided along class, and not racial lines.
"We can never accept a broken status quo. We can never go back to a past that didn't work. COVID, the COVID era has taught us that so clearly, and we need to do better and we will. And that means a commitment to fighting disparities and inequality in the life of New York City and that certainly takes us to education.
"Where if you're talking about the problems of disparity, if you're talking about structural racism, certainly policing is not the only area to talk about, there are many areas to talk about, and education must be front and center.
"There has been so much that needed to be addressed in education in New York City. And from the beginning what I tried to focus on was a very simple concept: Equity and excellence. That we needed to profoundly change the distribution of resources.
"I like to say very bluntly: our mission is to redistribute wealth. A lot of people bristle at that phrase, that is in fact the phrase we need to use. We have been doing this work for seven years to more equitably distribute resources throughout our school system. That means pre-K for all, 3-K for all, advanced placement courses for every high school, including those that never had a single one.
"It means changing school funding formulas, there's so many things that we've tried to do to profoundly rebalance the equation. Community schools, focusing on schools that needed the help the most in communities that have not been invested in. That work will continue, this year for sure, this hardest of all school years.
"But starting in September the Chancellor and I announced our 2021 student achievement plan, which is going to focus on closing the COVID achievement gap and ensuring that there is fairness for our kids, support for them, but with a special focus on the 27 neighborhoods most deeply affected by COVID, and those are black communities, Latino communities, and Asian communities that bore the brunt.
"So this work has been going on in a lot of different ways over the last seven years, and it has to intensify now given what we've learned during this most painful of years.
"As we look beyond this year, we have to understand that there are many different tools, many things that we can do differently. And it's time to start using every tool at our disposal to address inequality and to improve the education of all children.
"Those two things go together, addressing inequality, stopping disparity and improving education for all, that's one continuous mission."
With that, he announced changes to the city's high school and middle school admissions policies.
"These changes will improve justice and fairness but they will also make the process simpler and fairer particularly given what we're dealing with this year, and all the results of the coronavirus that have changed the way we have to do things."
The high school and middle school admissions process, which is about to begin in the city for parents and children, will undergo drastic changes.
So-called screened schools, which are middle schools that have admissions criteria for entry, will no longer be allowed to have admissions criteria for the coming year. These standards for entry will be "paused" for the academic year.
For high school, priority for admission will no longer be given to students who are geographically zoned for particular schools. Diversity planning will be expanded over the next four years, and the plan is to expand it to many more districts.
De Blasio touted the success of these diversity planning programs, and said it was "better for everyone and more inclusive of everyone," but he didn't say what that meant or what the guideposts were for ascertaining that success.