Quotas to Promote Diversity in NYC Schools?
The other day I was reading The New York Times, and I saw an article about the role of gentrification on public schools in low-income New York City neighborhoods. This article stated that the Education Department in New York City is trying to “set aside a percentage of seats for low-income families, English-language learners or students engaged with the child welfare system” so that students can be exposed to a range of different views.
Under this program, students would be entered into a raffle system, and if they are picked, they can go to one of these integrated schools. For example, if you are a student with one parent in prison, you will get priority for 10 percent of the seats at Castle Bridge. If you are a student from a low-income family, you will get priority placement for 60 percent of the seats at Castle Bridge.
These schools have been gaining popularity among white middle-class New Yorkers due to the school’s specialized focus. Brooklyn Arts and Letters, for example, gained popularity due to its humanity curriculum, its science lab and its strong focus on the arts (hence the name). Really, these were emphasized to help these low-income children, but as it became more successful, white middle-class families started to take notice.
Personally I believe integrating schools is necessary, but I realize it may not be an easy process. If young people are exposed to a variety of views, they can think more critically about social issues. They will therefore be better able to understand the kinds of problems other people face.
This can be very controversial, however. In the 1960’s people rebelled against the idea of integration, and sometimes even got violent. More recently, cases against racial quotas have made it to the Supreme Court. The Court decided several times that quotas were unconstitutional. The question is – are forced quotas the right way to go? Are we returning to 60’s era techniques to combat an age old problem, and will such an approach yield the kind of results today that it technically didn’t during that era?
Obviously, this is a very controversial topic and people need to learn more about others’ backgrounds to fully understand their views. The quota system, however, may be problematic for Mayor Bill de Blasio. A state already besieged by a variety of tough issues and bad policies related to education, this is one topic that may make matters worse before they get better.