NEW YORK :____ City Council Democratic Nominees Sandra Ung and Linda Lee hosted a press conference to protest Mayor Bill de Blasio’s elimination of the Gifted and Talented program. The two were joined by Congresswoman Grace Meng, State Senators Toby Stavisky and John Liu, State Assemblymembers Ed Braunstein, David Weprin and the office of Nily Rozic, City Councilmembers Barry Grodenchik and Peter Koo, and Cathy Grodzky, President of the District 26 PTA Presidents’ Council.
The group gathered in front of PS 203, which is in Linda Lee’s future district, is where her son attends school, and which has a gifted and talented classroom. Flanked by parents and community members, the Democratic nominees and elected officials criticized Mayor Bill de Blasio for failing to engage with parents before moving forward with his plan to eliminate G&T. Many speakers called for the expansion of G&T to more schools, including Sandra Ung whose future Council district does not have a single school with a G&T classroom. Several speakers pointed to the fact that the outgoing mayor has just a few short months to implement any changes, and that most of the responsibility for implementation will fall on the next Mayor.
“Over the past 8 years, the Mayor has repeated the same tactic over and over, promising to consult with stakeholders but then announcing sweeping changes before any engagement has taken place,” said Democratic nominee Linda Lee, who organized the press conference alongside Ung. ““Consulting” after the fact isn’t real consulting, it’s insulting. As a parent running for office, I refuse to stand by while decisions are made that affect my kids and those of my neighbors. One-size-fits-all isn’t fair to students, nor will it do anything to improve educational outcomes. The decision to eliminate G&T is just a distraction from the hard work necessary to address the real inequities in education our City faces. I hope our next mayor has the leadership and courage to do what’s right and roll back the mistakes of this current Mayor.”
“The mayor has made it clear that public engagement and discussion are not a priority for his administration. Unfortunately, this is something that we have seen all too often during this mayor’s tenure,” said Democratic Nominee Sandra Ung, who organized the press conference alongside Lee. “Rather than leaving the new administration a half-baked plan just three months before he leaves office, Mayor Bill de Blasio could have allowed the new mayor and the incoming City Council the opportunity to engage with parents about the best path to increasing diversity, for example by expanding G&T to every district and every school, creating an opt-out option for the test so that all students take the exam, or by creating rigorous after school tutoring programs that would be available to all New York City students. I look forward to partnering with the new mayor, the incoming City Council, parents and educators to make sure our education system works for all students.”
“Gifted and talented curriculums have provided students with crucial challenges that help them reach their full potential in the classroom,” said Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-Queens). “Phasing out this program is a mistake. Families in my district and across New York City have anxiously waited for when the promised public engagement process would begin. Reforming the process would be the harder choice, and instead of making any adjustments, the City is taking the easier way out by implementing a mass elimination of the program. G&T seats should be expanded to all communities throughout New York City and the testing process should be improved. All students deserve to benefit from them. They should be an option for every child, regardless of where students reside, and regardless of their family’s socioeconomic status. I urge the City to immediately reconsider its decision.”
“Once again, the Mayor made a major announcement on a Friday afternoon of a three-day weekend. While this Mayor has one foot out the door, it is a clearer signal than ever that this is a half-baked plan that should never be served”, said Senator Toby Ann Stavisky. “I cannot count the times that I have suggested to the Mayor’s Office ways to improve diversity. For 7 years and 9 months, these ideas have been ignored. We can have a more diverse population of students benefiting from Gifted and Talented programs. Mayor deBlasio would rather go it alone than do the hard work of including parents, teachers, elected officials and the community to create a more equitable system. Instead, he would rather tear down a program than build it up. I am encouraged to see that Eric Adams may have a more thoughtful approach on this matter. He will have to clean up the mess this Mayor has left.”
New York State Senator John Liu, chairperson of the Senate’s Committee on NYC Education and graduate of the G&T program at PS 203 stated: “G&T has been an integral option for generations of NYC school kids who learn at an accelerated rate for their grade level, and has offered hope for thousands of parents who otherwise would have completely lost confidence in public schools. It’s terribly wrong for de Blasio to simply eliminate this generations-long program without even engaging with parents about the issue as he had committed to doing. This action is disingenuous if not outright detestable, given that there is not nearly enough time left in his term to have any meaningful public engagement and for him to put any changes in place. He leaves the next administration with yet another mess to clean up, and with public school parents and their children once again being placed in limbo and suffering the consequences.”
Assemblyman Ed Braunstein said, “Every student in New York City deserves an educational opportunity that encourages them to perform to the best of their abilities. For years, the Gifted and Talented program has provided high achieving students a challenging learning environment in which they can reach their full potential. The Mayor’s decision to end the program without engaging parents or the community at large is unacceptable. I thank Sandra Ung, Linda Lee and members of the P.S. 203 school community for uniting to oppose this misguided decision.”
“The city’s gifted and talented program is popular in eastern Queens because it provides a suitable environment for extraordinary students,” said Council Member Barry S. Grodenchik. “I understand the need to modify the program to make it more equitable and accessible, but eliminating the program entirely is not reasonable, and this plan should not be rushed through in the closing days of the outgoing administration.”
“The Gifted & Talented program has helped generations of students excel in school. Parents, teachers, and advocates are clear that they want to keep the Gifted & Talented program in our public schools. I fully agree. We should pour additional resources into the Gifted & Talented program and expand access to it” said Assemblyman David Weprin. “The Department of Education can do so much more to reach out to disadvantaged communities and communities of color to ensure that every child has the opportunity to benefit from the program. Equitable access to the Gifted & Talented program and increased inclusivity is what NYC public school students need.”
Council Member Peter Koo said, “The mayor demonized G&T for the last eight years, but refused even the most basic efforts to fix it. Now, by simply eliminating it less than three months before he walks out the door, the mayor is shirking his responsibilities in the worst way by dodging parental engagement and avoiding accountability for a controversial new program he won’t even be here to oversee. With two and a half months left in office, the mayor should be capping off the programs and initiatives he’s had eight years to perfect, not theorycrafting with our kids when he has no intention of sticking around to see if it even works.”
Assemblywoman Nily Rozic said, “It is unfortunate that the Mayor would once again take action without proper community engagement to not only address concerns but potentially determine measures to build on this program that has provided student enrichment and success. G&T has been an effective way to challenge young people that is worthy of community-informed review and investment to achieve equity in education. I urge the Mayor to reconsider his decision and listen to parents who have long been on the forefront of protecting this program.”
“Our children only get one shot at a great education. A key component of a good education is to expand Gifted and Talented Programs to all local elementary schools to provide access to these resources to all children, no matter what zip code they live in,” said Lynn Schulman, Democratic Nominee for City Council in the 29th District.