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Perspectives on Desegregating NYC Schools

Elam Lantz

Elam Lantz is a Program Manager at ExpandED Schools.

Last week, the Gotham Center hosted a panel on ending segregation in New York City public schools. NYC has the most segregated school system in the country, and there has been a significant increase in coverage on the issue in recent months. The lively panel discussion addressed whether desegregation should be a policy priority for the reform movement in NYC.

Panelist Zakiyah Ansari, Advocacy Director for the Alliance for Quality Education, expressed skepticism, saying, “I don’t think this is a top priority for black and brown communities.” Ansari went on to advocate for funding equity, in particular the $1.6 billion owed to struggling NYC schools. She advocates a focus on systemic racism, and that talking about desegregation “can divert as well as distract and remove responsibility of city and state officials to fully fund schools.”

Ansley Erickson, author of Making the Unequal Metropolis, put this point into historical context. Past activists, like Ella Baker, argued not for “desegregation simply for its own sake” but as “a crucial, strategic choice and part of a broader set of policy aspirations and desires for change.”

Clara Hemphill, founder of InsideSchools.org, attempted to bridge multiple viewpoints by advocating for economic, rather than exclusively racial, desegregation. She also invited participants to a forum on November 30th at the New School to talk about plans for systematic integration.

♦ Want to learn more about the history of segregated schools in NYC? Read more about it here and here.



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