A Brooklyn Councilman is comparing local school districts to the Jim Crow South after learning there are no gifted and talented programs for students in his district.
"I'm embarrassed. I feel like this is Birmingham Alabama 1937," said Councilman Robert Cornegy.
Cornegy first learned about the dearth when he was looking for schools for his own sons.
But he wasn't shocked considering recent studies have labeled New York schools among the most diverse and most segregated in the country.
"And then you have this glaring hole, literally a visual hole in gifted and talented programs across the city," said Cornegy. "And you can draw a direct correlation to where they're absent, to communities of color."
While District 16 which represents parts of Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights has zero gifted and talented programs for students, nearby District 20 has nine.
So the brightest kids in Cornegy's district are bused to far away schools, leaving a brain drain in the neighborhood.
"The active, engaged parents that I know, who want their children to participate in programs that land them in specialized high schools have them somewhere else in the borough."
But the Department of Education says that number of kids isn't even enough to fill a classroom.
Students must test-in to qualify for the public school gifted and talented programs and last year just 16 kids entering kindergarten in district 16 qualified.
“Every student – no matter what zip code they live in – deserves a fair shot at gifted and talented programs, and we have worked to increase the number of test takers in areas like District 16 by sending postcards to families and providing hard copies of G&T directors at pre-k programs," said DOE spokesperson Harry Hartfield. "Last year, all the pre-k students who qualified and submitted an application in District 16 were given offers to a program in a neighboring district. We will continue to monitor the number of qualifiers in the district and engage with stakeholders around the possibility of a G&T program in District 16.”
But Cornegy says without those programs, it's harder to convince families who value education to move to the neighborhood. And forcing students who do qualify to travel further than their classmates just doesn't seem fair.
"For parents who are engaged and who want the best for their children, to not have that option available seems crazy."
Cornegy says there were gifted and talented programs in his district before they were phased out under the previous administration. So he says schools in his neighborhood have the infrastructure to get them back up and running.