Though New York’s schools are among the nation’s most segregated, few districts are doing much about it. But now, the state education department is making them a deal: If you commit to integrating your schools, we’ll show you how.
The state’s most segregated districts can apply for training grants of up to $70,000, which will allow school and district leaders to attend workshops on how to identify the causes of segregation in their local schools and come up with plans to reduce it, the department announced Wednesday.
Among the 22 districts eligible to apply for the grants are 11 in New York City, including ones on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and Upper West Side, gentrifying sections of Brooklyn and Queens, and Staten Island. Many of those districts are home to a diverse mix of students of different races and classes, but they are spread unevenly among the schools. Other highly segregated districts, such as those in the Bronx, did not meet the state’s eligibility rules.
The grants, which officials previewed in the fall, are the latest iteration of a $1.25 million program launched in 2014 that aimed to revamp low-performing schools by helping them enroll more middle-class students. Some districts were stymied by bureaucratic delays and transportation costs as they tried to carry out their integration plans, but the grants still spurred some changes — including a new enrollment system in the Lower East Side district meant to help desegregate the local elementary schools.
The latest round of grants, worth a total of $1.4 million, expand the program’s scope beyond socioeconomic integration: They can also be used to desegregate schools with high concentrations of students of color, those who are still learning English, or students with disabilities.
“Too many schools in New York are home to troubling inequalities,” said Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia in a statement. “For students to reach their full potential, they must have fair and equitable access to educational resources. This program will help us get there.”
In addition to school integration strategies, grant recipients will also learn about “culturally responsive practices” — teaching methods, curriculum materials, and school policies that recognize and celebrate students’ diverse backgrounds.
To be eligible, districts must have a poverty rate of at least 50 percent, at least one low-performing school, and be ranked among the state’s most segregated districts — measured either by the racial and socioeconomic imbalance among schools within its borders, or between its schools and those of its home county.
Districts have until Feb. 2 to apply. Those that complete the trainings, which run from February through August, can compete for additional state funds to actually carry out their integration plans.