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Mayor De Blasio Details Plan To Diversify New York City's Elite High Schools

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio is demanding that eight elite high schools scrap admissions tests so more minority students can get in.

It's an idea that is sparking controversy, CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported Sunday.

Towers of green and yellow balloons were seen at the entrance to the Bronx High School of Science -- just so much hot air to Mayor de Blasio, who sees "entrance" exams to Bronx Science and seven other elite high schools as barriers to black and Hispanic students.

"The status quo is broken. We have to make a major change. We have to make sure that the very best high schools are open to every New Yorker, every kind of New Yorker. They need to look like New York City."

The mayor, who engineered something of a campaign-like rally with parents and politicians at a junior high school in East New York, said it was time to end having students take tests to get into the school because right now because just 10 percent of students at the elite high schools are Black and Hispanic, while 70 percent of students in city schools are Black and Hispanic.

The mayor wants 45 percent of the 5,000 seats to go to black and Hispanic students.

Bronx High School of Science
Bronx High School of Science logo (Photo: CBS2)

De Blasio's plan is two-fold.

He wants 20 percent of the seats reserved for low-income students starting in September 2019. He will then seek to have state legislation to eliminate the tests and replace them with admission criteria based on middle school class rank and state test scores.

The problem is, what if you don't go to a public school?

CBS2's Kramer addressed the mayor directly: "There are other students who go to private schools, Yeshivas, Catholic schools, Muslim schools ... what accommodations will be made for them?"

"I don't know the percentage of kids overall," de Blasio responded. "Obviously, we want fairness for everyone."

The answer from Deputy School Chancellor Josh Wallack is that 7 percent of the space in the elite schools will be left for students from non-public schools who will be selected.

"Based on a lottery," Wallack said.

Manhattan Councilman Ben Kallos, an alum of Bronx Science, is against the changes.

"The fact that fewer black and Hispanic kids is getting into these schools is not the failure of the schools. It's the failure of the public education system that has been failing them since day one," Kallos said.

The mayor admits getting Albany to eliminate the tests may be difficult and that he may have to wait until next year.

A statement from the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation and the Stuyvesant High School Alumni Association pointed out that the mayor's admissions formula is "exceedingly complicated." It also says the plan does not address "educational disparities across New York City middle schools."

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