A.10427-A Barron, et al / S.8503 Parker: In relation to admission to the specialized high schools in the City of New York

Published on June 6th, 2018

Memorandum of Opposition

The above-referenced legislation would eliminate the current competitive and objective scholastic achievement test used for determining admission to the specialized high schools of the City of New York in lieu of a system of multiple subjective measures and quotas. Further, the measure also guarantees a considerable number of seats at such schools for 8th grade students attending only public schools, thereby creating a significant disadvantage for 8th grade students in religious and independent schools who would otherwise be eligible to attend such specialized high schools. This measure is discriminatory and counterproductive to real educational opportunity.

The New York State Catholic Conference opposes this legislation.

On the surface, this measure appears to be intended to expand educational opportunities for educationally disadvantaged students by effectively guaranteeing seats for such students at the city’s specialized high schools. “Guaranteeing” seats at such schools for under-represented students does an enormous disservice to these students, their families and our communities because it ignores the systemic failure of our educational system to provide equal opportunity to all students.

Equal educational and economic opportunity must be available to all children so that their inherent human dignity and potential can be fully realized. For these reasons and for more than 200 years, the Catholic schools of this state have opened their doors to any and all who seek the kind of high quality education that expands the mind and shapes character. Our schools have a long-standing record of helping economically disadvantaged students break the cycle of poverty and live a productive and fulfilling life. Many of these students successfully competed to enter the city’s specialized high schools, went to college and live prosperous lives today. These students weren’t “guaranteed” a slot. They were given an opportunity at an early age for a high-quality education, they worked hard and they competed with their peers to be where they are today.

But clearly much more needs to be done if we are to ensure that all children, regardless of their economic status, have equal access to the city’s specialized high schools. One critically important step would be to enact a state program to expand the number of scholarships available to children from low-income families so more children will have access to high quality schools available to families of means.

Lowering the academic performance standards necessary to gain access to the specialized high schools will no doubt change the make up of the student body at these schools but will do no good in the long run. Moreover, arbitrarily limiting the number of seats available at the specialized high schools for which religious and independent 8th graders can compete creates a disincentive for families to enroll their children in religious and independent schools. This will further burden an already overcrowded public school system that struggles to prepare all its students for on-going education.

The New York State Catholic Conference opposes this measure and urges enactment of a comprehensive program giving all children access to the high-quality school of their choice.

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