A parent group is trying to keep their plan for district-wide school integration alive after the District 3 Community Education Council seemed to sweep aside calls for a “controlled choice” enrollment system.
Parents in District 3, which includes the Upper West Side and parts of Harlem, have been locked in a battle over how to integrate schools and relieve overcrowding by redrawing zone lines. On Tuesday, the CEC laid out its own vision to do so. That vision does not include controlled choice, which determines school assignments based on a combination of preference and student diversity concerns.
In its lengthy letter, the council noted it had held two forums to discuss controlled choice, but said those discussions raised “more questions than panelists could answer” and they failed to reach a “clear consensus.”
But an advocacy group based in District 3, New York City Public School Parents for Equity and Desegregation, pushed back on Wednesday, saying that not enough time and attention were dedicated to exploring controlled choice as an option.
“In an overhaul like this, it’s new. It’s complicated. And as with any new issue, it requires repetition. It requires broad engagement,” said Toni Smith-Thompson, a founding member of the parent group. “So we don’t want it to be taken off the table. We don’t want rezoning to be the end result.”
The group sent a letter petitioning CEC leaders and the city to “meaningfully” consider a large-scale integration plan. Rezoning, they argue, puts a “band-aid” on the problem of school inequity.
“Equal schools and educational justice must be a first principle. Making plans any other way will deepen and prolong overcrowding, segregation and inequity,” the letter states.
Another advocacy group, the District 3 Equity in Education Task Force, has also pushed for controlled choice and raised some of the same issues in an email on Wednesday to CEC members.
CEC President Joe Fiordaliso said there simply isn’t enough support for a controlled choice plan and defended the council’s rezoning proposal, saying it will “combat segregation in our schools.”
“Our balanced approach is both meaningful and achievable, and I stand by it without the slightest equivocation,” he wrote in an email.
The CEC does not have the authority to redraw zone lines — that’s up to the city Department of Education. However, the council casts the final vote to approve or reject changes. A vote is expected Nov. 9.
Read the New York City Public School Parents for Equity and Desegregation’s full letter here.