Small Schools Athletic League founder to file civil rights complaint

Updated with city response — David Garcia-Rosen has been fighting for more athletic opportunities for students at the city’s small schools for years. In 2011, he turned that advocacy into the Small Schools Athletic League, which this year coordinated 90 teams at 42 schools.

Now, he says he’s headed to the U.S. Department of Education to make his point: that students at small schools—primarily students of color—have been denied teams by the city-funded Public Schools Athletic League, just as larger schools with more resources and fewer black and Hispanic students have gained them.

“Tomorrow morning, I will file a complaint with the United States Department of Education’s Office of  Civil Rights stating that the New York City Department of Education is in direct violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the way they fund high school sports,” he said in an open letter to principals and athletes.

On Tuesday, Garcia-Rosen acknowledged that the city had offered to incorporate the small-schools league as a division of the Public Schools Athletic League next year, and had offered him a job in the PSAL. (The small-schools league has been funded by principals in the past, though the department provided a $250,000 grant this January.)

But he said the city offered few details about how the small-schools division would be supported or how he would fit into the hierarchy of the department.

For now, Garcia-Rosen said he plans to end the Small Schools Athletic League altogether next year. “We’re hoping that the mayor and the Public Advocate step in and make sure there is a solution that involves major changes” to the Public Schools Athletic League, he said.

“They thought to was more important to give Tottenville High School, that already has 41 teams, badminton and table tennis. But they don’t have enough money to provide soccer all over the city,” he said. “How could we feel OK bringing the league over there if they think that’s OK?”

City officials declined to comment on the specifics of Garcia-Rosen’s letter, but noted that 80 percent of PSAL participants are students of color and that 90 percent of high school students go to school at a campus with at least one PSAL program.

“We are working to create a new league in PSAL which will expand opportunity for students in small schools, meet the federal Title IX mandate to equally serve high school girls and ensure implementation of our strict safety standards,” spokeswoman Devora Kaye said in a statement. “We will continue to discuss with SSAL and are hopeful that with the league expansion, we’ll reach even more students in more schools across City.”

Garcia-Rosen’s full letter is below.

Good Morning Student-Athletes, Coaches, Administrators, and Allies,
It is with great sadness that I report we have not been able to come to an agreement with the Department of Education to continue the Small Schools Athletic League next year.

Tomorrow morning, I will file a complaint with the United States Department of Education’s Office of  Civil Rights stating that the New York City Department of Education is in direct violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the way they fund high school sports.

The Department of Education can’t continue to fund world class athletic programs at schools with white students, leaving the most segregated schools begging for teams year after year. On the 60th anniversary of “Brown vs The Board of Education”, it is unbelievable that New York City continues to support one of the most “separate and unequal” high school sports systems in the country.

I built this league in September of 2011, because the Public School Athletic League said there was no way for them to bring interscholastic sports to small high schools. They told me to prove it could be done. We have done that with a league that currently has over 90 teams from 42 high schools with 1700 student-athletes.

I have been in the DOE for 16 years and it has never been about simply creating and running a league.

It is about every student in New York City having the right to play high school sports.

The leadership of the DOE continues to believe offering me a job at the PSAL is the solution. They continue to defend the PSAL which is one of the most “separate and unequal” high school sports systems in the country. I can’t go work for the PSAL, when they continue to defend their current funding model at the very few meetings they grant me.

Even after receiving my research in May of 2013, they went on to make the situation worse in 2014.

In Fiscal Year 2014, the 50 high schools with the least students of color got 84 new PSAL teams, even though they already had the most. The 277 high schools with the most students of color got the same amount. Not one team was granted to the high schools that are 100% students of color.

I will continue to fight not only for the student-athletes of the SSAL, but for all the student-athletes in New York City whose lives can be changed through the power of sports. I can assure you I will not stop fighting until every student in New York City has equal access to high school sports.

I hope to see many of you at the DOE Budget hearing tomorrow morning at City Hall, 9:45 AM. I will be there with SSAL student-athletes to deliver the thousands of signatures and letters we have collected over the past year.

David Garcia-Rosen
Founder/Director Small Schools Athletic League

on the run

‘Sex and the City’ star and public schools advocate Cynthia Nixon launches bid for N.Y. governor

Cynthia Nixon on Monday announced her long-anticipated run for New York governor.

Actress and public schools advocate Cynthia Nixon announced Monday that she’s running for governor of New York, ending months of speculation and launching a campaign that will likely spotlight education.

Nixon, who starred as Miranda in the TV series “Sex and the City,” will face New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in September’s Democratic primary.

Nixon has been active in New York education circles for more than a decade. She served as a  longtime spokeswoman for the Alliance for Quality Education, a union-backed advocacy organization. Though Nixon will step down from that role, according to a campaign spokeswoman, education promises to be a centerpiece of her campaign.

In a campaign kickoff video posted to Twitter, Nixon calls herself “a proud public school graduate, and a prouder public school parent.” Nixon has three children.

“I was given chances I just don’t see for most of New York’s kids today,” she says.

Nixon’s advocacy began when her oldest child started school, which was around the same time the recession wreaked havoc on education budgets. She has slammed Gov. Cuomo for his spending on education during his two terms in office, and she has campaigned for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

In 2008, she stepped into an emotional fight on the Upper West Side over a plan to deal with overcrowding and segregation that would have impacted her daughter’s school. In a video of brief remarks during a public meeting where the plan was discussed, Nixon is shouted down as she claims the proposal would lead to a “de facto segregated” school building.

Nixon faces steep competition in her first run for office. She is up against an incumbent governor who has amassed a $30 million war chest, according to the New York Times. If elected, she would be the first woman and the first openly gay governor in the state.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”