City Public Advocate calls out segregation in public school system

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The Department of Education needs to create a “Chief Diversity Officer” to address segregation in New York City public schools, Public Advocate Letitia James said.

NEW YORK —A “broken patchwork of initiatives” designed to desegregate schools is failing students, Public Advocate Letitia James said.

The Department of Education needs to create a “Chief Diversity Officer” to address the educational inequality in city public schools, James said Wednesday. DOE’s integration strategy relies too heavily on individual principals.

“The New York City public school system is one of the most segregated school systems in the country, and the DOE does not have a sufficient plan to address this reality,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “With the creation of a Chief Diversity Officer, New York City will finally be able to tackle the systemic segregation that should have been eradicated decades ago.”

The DOE is working to create more diverse classrooms, but disagrees with James’ plan, said DOE spokeswomen Devora Kaye. The department’s leadership team will put out a larger diversity plan this school year and is working on the issue through operations, programming, instruction and policy.

“These efforts extend far beyond one individual or division and a more simplistic approach would discredit the importance of the effort, the complexity of the issue and the need for collaboration both internally and externally,” Kaye said.

Recent data shows that black and Latino students have the highest concentrations of intensely-segregated public schools and the lowest exposure to white students. They also largely attend public schools in poor or low-income neighborhoods.

“A student’s success should not be determined by their zip code,” James said.

Students at schools in lower income neighborhoods don’t perform as well as students in higher income neighborhoods, James said. The schools in lower income areas have less resources. They also have a harder time attracting and keeping teachers.

The Chief Diversity Officer proposed by James would be charged with creating an action plan to address the segregation. They would also be in charge of implementing the plan.

The Council of School Superintendents and Administrators is also supporting James’ call for a Chief Diversity Officer.

“Diversity doesn’t just happen,” said Council President Ernest Logan.  “Someone has to make it happen, watch over and guide our joint efforts to make our schools as diverse as the city they serve.”