July 24, 2017: “DESEGREGATE NOW!”

NYC Councilman Ritchie Torres is calling for desegregation in our cities schools immediately!  He joins us with the details.

TRANSCRIPT

> OVER 60 YEARS AFTER THE BROWN VERSUS BOARD OF EDUCATION RULING, BANNING STATE SANCTIONS OF SEGREGATION OF PUBLIC SOOLS, DIVERSITY IN SCHOOLS CONTINUE TO FALL SHORT FOR MANY STUDENTS.

NEW YORK CITY HAS ONE OF THE MOST SEGREGATED SCHOOL SYSTEMS IN THE COUNTRY.

TO TRY AND ADDRESS THIS, A COALITION OF ADVOCATES SENT A LETTER TO THE CITY SCHOOL'S CHANCELLOR, CARMEN FIORINA, FOR A PLAN TO INTEGRATE SCHOOLS.

ONE OF THE LETTER'S SIGNATORY JOINS US NOW TO TALK ABOUT DIVERSITY IN SCHOOLS.

WHAT HAS BEEN DONE, WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE, AND WHY NOW IS THE TIME TO MOVE FORWARD.

WELCOME, COUNCILMAN.

GOOD TO BE HERE.

WITH THIS LETTER THAT WAS SENT ON MAY 26th, ONE OF THE THING THAT WAS POINTED OUT WAS THAT THERE NEEDS TO BE MEASURABLE GOALS INVOLVED IN DIVERSIFYING NEW YORK CITY SCHOOLS.

WHAT ARE THOSE GOALS AND HOW DO WE MEASURE THEM?

FIRST I NEED THE RECOGNITION THAT SEGREGATION IS A PROBLEM.

ACCORDING TO THE ACLU, WE HAVE THE MOST SEGREGATED SCHOOL SYSTEM.

WE HAVE TO RECONCILE OUR SELF-IMAGE WITH THIS ROCK AT THE VERY CORE OF OUR PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM.

I WOULD CALL ON THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TO ADOPT SCHOOL INTEGRATION AS A POLICY OBJECTIVE.

WE'VE SEEN THE NUMBER OF INTENSELY SEGREGATED SCHOOLS RISE BY 70%.

HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT INTEGRATING -- ARE WE TALKING ABOUT BUSING THAT WE SAW IN THE '70s?

HOW DOES THIS WORK, AND WHAT WOULD THOSE GOALS LOOK LIKE?

I THINK ONE OF THE MOST COMMON RESPONSES IS THE MAYOR, IS THAT SEGREGATION IS PURELY A MOSTLY FUNCTION OF THE IMPACT.

IT'S TRUE, THAT'S HELPING TO PLAY A ROLE.

INTEGRATED -- HOUSING CANNOT EXPLAIN SEGREGATION IN NEIGHBORHOODS.

THAT IS A PUBLIC POLICY, WHETHER ZONING, OR CHOICE, OR SCREENING, WHICH ARE KNOWN TO PRODUCE RACIAL INEQUITIES IN THE PUBLIC EDUCATION.

SO WHEN WE'RE TALKING ABOUT CHANGES THAT NEED TO BE MADE, I JUST WANT TO BE CLEAR FOR OUR VIEWERS WHAT EXACTLY IS IT THAT NEEDS TO BE DONE TO HELP MOVE NEW YORK CITY INTO A MORE DIVERSE, AND OF COURSE, WITH DIVERSITY, WE'RE NOT JUST TALKING RACIAL DIVERSITY, THIS IS DIVERSITY OF CLASS, AND ETHNICITY, RELIGION, ET CETERA?

IT'S MOSTLY RACE.

AND OBVIOUSLY RACE AND CLASS IN AMERICAN LIFE ARE CLOSELY INTERTWINED.

ELIMINATING SCREENING WHICH SEGREGATES STUDENTS OF COLOR.

IT MEANS IMPLEMENTING AN ALTERNATIVE TO ZONING AND CHOICE.

KNOWN AS CONTROLLED CHOICE.

UNDER CONTROLLED CHOICE.

IT ALLOWS PARENTS TO RANK THEIR PREFERRED SCHOOLS IN ORDER.

AND THOSE PREFERENCES ARE FACTORED INTO A COMPUTER ALGORITHM THAT ALSO CONSIDERS DIVERSITY.

THERE'S A BALANCE BETWEEN THE NEED FOR GREATER DIVERSITY IN THE CLASSROOM AND THE NEED TO PRESERVE THE ABILITY OF PARENTS TO SELECT THE BEST SCHOOLS FOR THEIR CHILDREN.

YOU MENTIONED THE MAYOR A FEW MOMENTS AGO AND HE DID, OF COURSE, RELEASE HIS OWN PLAN FOR DIVERSIFYING SCHOOLS.

IT WAS DONE WITH LITTLE FANFARE.

SOME PEOPLE WERE CONCERNED ABOUT THE FACT THAT IT DIDN'T SEEM TO GET A WHOLE LOT OF ATTENTION.

FIRST, WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE MAYOR'S PLAN FOR DIVERSIFYING SCHOOLS?

MIXED.

DOES THE PLAN RISE TO THE LEVEL OF SYSTEMIC CHANGE?

NO.

NOR IS IT SIMPLY A PUBLIC RELATIONS GIMMICK.

FOR THE LARGEST SCHOOL SYSTEM IN THE COUNTRY, TO SET QUANTIFIABLE GOALS TO DIVERSIFY THE CLASSROOM, IT'S AN OFFICIAL RECOGNITION OF INTEGRATION AS A PUBLIC POLICY OBJECTIVE WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION.

AND IT DEMONSTRATES THAT THE COALITION FOR SCHOOL INTEGRATION HAS HAD A REAL IMPACT IN CHANGING THE TERMS OF THE DEBATE.

THAT THE DEBATE IS NO LONGER ABOUT WHETHER TO DIVERSIFY OUR SCHOOLS, BUT HOW.

HE ALSO DID MENTION THAT THERE'S A ROLE THAT STATE LEGISLATORS COULD BE PLAYING IN ALL OF THIS.

NOW, OF COURSE, WE KNOW THERE'S BEEN A LOT OF BACK-AND-FORTH WITH THE MAYOR AND STATE WITH MAYORAL CONTROL OVER SCHOOLS.

WHAT ROLE DO STATE LAWMAKERS PLAY IN NEW YORK'S ABILITY TO DIVERSIFY ITS SCHOOLS AND WHAT SHOULD THEY BE DOING?

ULTIMATE AUTHORITY OVER THE PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM AND WE'VE FOUND OUT LIES NOT WITH THE MAYOR, WITH THE LEGISLATURE, THE LEGISLATURE COULD SET REQUIREMENTS THAT NEW YORK CITY MOVE TOWARD GREATER DESEGREGATION OF THE PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM, WHICH I WOULD WHOLEHEARTEDLY SUPPORT.

TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHY THIS IS SO IMPORTANT.

THE MAYOR SORT OF TOUCHED ON IN HIS OWN SPEECH ANNOUNCING THAT HE WENT TO DIVERSE SCHOOLS, OR INTEGRATED SCHOOLS AND BENEFITED FROM THAT.

HE INTENTIONALLY WANTED THAT FOR HIS OWN CHILDREN.

HOW CAN THEY BENEFIT FROM BEING IN A MORE DIVERSE ATMOSPHERE IN THEIR MORE FORMATIVE YEARS, AND ALSO, DOES THAT MEAN THE SEGREGATED SCHOOLS ACTUALLY HURT THEM?

OR DOES IT AT ALL?

SEGREGATION IS DESTRUCTIVE.

THAT'S NOT MY OPINION, THAT'S THE OPINION OF BROWN VERSUS BOARD OF EDUCATION.

I BELIEVE AS JOHN MARSHALL DID, THAT THE ROAD TO RACIAL EQUITY RUNS THROUGH RACIALLY INTEGRATED CLASSROOMS.

SEPARATE EQUALS CAN NEVER BE EQUAL.

I THINK A LOT OF TIMES WHEN PEOPLE THINK ABOUT SEGREGATION HARMING KIDS, THEY THINK OF THE KIDS WHO ARE SEPARATED INTO POORER DISTRICTS.

I'M WONDERING IF IT IS ALSO DAMAGING TO KIDS THAT ARE IN ELITE SCHOOLS WHO DON'T HAVE ACCESS TO A DIFFERENT KIND OF --

IT'S A DIFFERENT KIND OF HARM.

I THINK IN THE CASE OF STUDENTS OF COLOR, IT'S RESOURCE AND EQUITY, DEPRIVATION OF RESOURCES.

IN THE CASE OF THE REST OF SOCIETY, YOU'RE DENYING THEM OPPORTUNITIES TO LEARN HOW TO BE A CITIZEN IN A COSMOPOLITAN SOCIETY, AND INTERACT WITH PEOPLE OF ALL WALKS OF LIFE.

THERE ARE CIVIC HARMS AND MATERIAL EDUCATIONAL HARMS THAT ARISE FROM SEGREGATION.

GOING FORWARD WITH DIVERSIFYING NEW YORK CITY SCHOOLS, IS IT POSSIBLE -- BECAUSE THERE'S BEEN AN ARGUMENT THAT THE CHARTER SCHOOL SYSTEM ACTUALLY DOES A VERY GOOD JOB OF DIVERSIFYING ITS STUDENT BODY.

IS THAT SOMETHING THAT YOU'VE FOUND, AND THAT COULD BE AN ARGUMENT FOR MORE CHARTER SCHOOLS, OR SHOULD THERE BE MORE PUSH AND EMPHASIS ON THIS IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM?

MY UNDERSTANDING IS THAT A FEW CHARTER SCHOOLS EXIST TO PROMOTE DIVERSITY, BUT NOT ALL OF THEM.

I THINK THE EMPHASIS OF THE CHARTER SCHOOL MOVEMENT HAS BEEN ON TEACHER QUALITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY AND THE EMPHASIS ON THE CAMPAIGN FOR FISCAL EQUITY.

WHAT I'M ARGUING IS THAT THOSE ARE SYMPTOMS.

THE LARGER PROBLEM IS SCHOOL SEGREGATION.

SHOW ME ANY SCHOOL SYSTEM THAT IS DEEPLY SEGREGATED IN THE COUNTRY AND I WILL SHOW YOU A SCHOOL SYSTEM THAT PRODUCES INEQUITY AND OPPORTUNITIES.

COUNCILMAN TORRES, THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO COME DOWN AND TALK TO US ABOUT THIS ISSUE.

WE'LL BE WATCHING TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS GOING FORWARD WITH INTEGRATING AND DESEGREGATING NEW YORK CITY SCHOOLS.

IF THERE'S ONE THOUGHT YOU COULD LEAVE OUR VIEWERS WITH, WHAT WOULD THAT BE, ABOUT THE DIVERSITY OF CITY SCHOOLS?

WE ARE NOT POWERLESS TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM.

I THINK WE'VE CONVINCED OURSELVES THAT THERE ARE FORCES BEYOND OUR CONTROL THAT DICTATE THE FUTURE OF PUBLIC EDUCATION.

I THINK WE SHOULD EMPOWER OURSELVES TO HONOR THE HERITAGE OF BROWN VERSUS BOARD OF EDUCATION AND ENSURE THAT THE POOREST KIDS IN THE POOREST NEIGHBORHOODS HAVE A FIGHTING CHANCE AT A DECENT EDUCATION.

AGAIN, COUNCILMAN TORRES, THANK YOU SO MUCH.

IT'S AN HONOR TO BE HERE.

THANK YOU.

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