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Mayor De Blasio's Plan For Elite New York City High Schools Met With Anger By Many

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- In the wake of Mayor Bill de Blasio's announcement Sunday that he wants to diversify the elite high schools in New York City, there has been an avalanche of criticism from parents, students and alumni, not to mention talk of a potential lawsuit.

The mayor says his plan will increase the number of black and Hispanic students in the city's eight specialized high schools, but as CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported Tuesday not everyone is giving him a high mark.

De Blasio told members of a black church in Harlem that his plan to scrap admissions tests for the city's elite high schools was simple justice.

"Blessed are those who act justly," de Blasio said.

Stuyvesant High School
(credit: Paul Murnane/CBS New York)

The mayor said he believes the specialized high school admission test puts Hispanic and black students from lower-performing schools at a disadvantage, because:

-- Only 10 percent of students at the elite high schools are black and Hispanic.
-- De Blasio wants 45 percent of the 5,000 seats to go to black and Hispanic students.
-- He wants to reserve 20 percent to low-income students in the fall of 2019 and then seek legislation to eliminate the placement test altogether.
-- Ultimately putting in place admissions criteria based on middle school class rank and "state" test scores.

Some education experts say the plan is a step in the right direction. 

"We shouldn't be shutting out life opportunities for kids who've been in schools where they weren't getting excellent educations," Brooklyn College professor David Bloomfield told CBS2. "So this is in a sense a second chance for those kids who have shown that they are able, but haven't had the advantages to move into these top schools before."

But on Monday the mayor faced monumental blow-back from alumni, parents and students. Larry Cary, alumni president at Brooklyn Tech, the school the mayor's son, Dante, graduated from, said that when you eliminate a test based on merit, politics raises its furry little head.

"There's absolutely no doubt that once this door is open who your father is is going to make a difference as to which school you get in to," Cary said.

De Blasio Diversify Elite Schools
Mayor Bill de Blasio details his plan to diversify elite city high schools on June 3, 2018 credit: CBS2)

Also at issue is the high percentage of Asian students at the schools who would, presumably, lose out.

Soo Kim is president of the Stuyvesant Alumni Association. The school is nearly 74 percent Asian.

"This solution is going to be born on the back of poor Asian families," said Kim, adding when asked by CBS2's Kramer if de Blasio's plan is a form of discrimination, "The Asian Exclusion Act of 2018. It sounds sort of like that, people saying this school is too Asian."

Brooklyn Tech grad David Lee, a Chinese-American civil rights activist, said the mayor could be sued.

"If we see that the number of Asian students fall, we feel there's grounds for an investigation, perhaps grounds for a lawsuit," Lee said.

"He can't be the mayor of just one or two groups. He needs to be the mayor of New York City," added Stuyvesant's Chris Kwok.

Parents whose kids attend the schools or who want their kids to get into the schools are furious.

"De Blasio is a little biased," Karlin Chan said. "It showed implicit bias when he said all Asians are economically sound, well, we can afford tutoring. That sounds like a racist statement to me that reinforces a negative stereotype."

Governor Andrew Cuomo pointed out that the problem is the Department of Education doesn't distribute funding to schools equally.

"How do you justify today spending $11,000 on some students and $33,000 on other students? And then you wonder why some students are better prepared to take the test for Stuyvesant," Cuomo said. "Some students in this state are getting a better education and it's tied to funding."

"There are entire schools in the Bronx where eighth graders cannot do fractions," George Lee said. "That's what the problem is. We got to fix those problems. Meanwhile, shame on de Blasio."

The mayor's office refused to comment on the criticism, saying it would rely on what he said Sunday, which is that some students aren't good test takers and shouldn't miss out because of that.

Many students at Stuyvesant High School told CBS2 they are worried about how the mayor's plan may affect the reputation of their school.

"Students are going to get in without the testing and passing the threshold," senior Mahesh Saha said. "It's going to change the profile of the school, and already notes that like a 95 at Stuy is not the same as a 95 at Tech."

"It makes no sense to take spots away from students who prepared well for students who scored way lower than others," senior Giorgio Vidali added.

"He should really just add funding to the schools that are clearly under-funded," senior Saloni Majmudar said. "That's the big reason why our school is so not diverse is because a lot of the black and Hispanic students, they're going to schools that are really under-funded. They don't have the resources to do well."

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