Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said Tuesday that the education department could “probably” change the admissions requirements at five of the city’s eight specialized high schools immediately, in an apparent contradiction to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s position that such a move could invite a legal challenge.
Carranza’s comments, which came during a fiery speech at the Hispanic Education Summit, represent a rare break from the mayor. Carranza told the audience that the city could likely change the admissions requirements at those five schools, which weren’t named in the 1971 state law creating the enrollment process at the elite schools. But Carranza suggested he would not push for those changes because the principals at those schools advised him against it.
“As I’ve met with the principals of those eight schools, I’ve actually listened to the people doing the work,” Carranza added. “They said: ‘don’t break us up. We’re a group. We have the same challenges, we have the same obstacles, don’t break us up […] I’m not going to break them up, mayor’s not going to break them up.”
Admission to eight of the city’s elite high schools are governed by a single test, which advocates say disadvantages black and Hispanic students, who earn a small fraction of admissions offers to those schools. In a bid to integrate them, de Blasio announced a push to get rid of the single admissions test across all eight schools, but has long claimed that the city can’t redesign the enrollment process at specialized schools without a vote from the state legislature.
In fact, just three specialized high schools are actually written into state law: Stuyvesant High School, Bronx High School of Science, and Brooklyn Technical High School — and many legal experts say the city could simply change the admissions standards at the five others, which were designated as specialized schools by the Bloomberg administration.
Carranza seemed to agree with that expert consensus Tuesday. “We have a law now with the state that says you have to use this one test for a subgroup of those schools,” Carranza said. “‘Now why wouldn’t you just break them apart, Mr. Chancellor? You can do whatever you want with those five schools.’ Probably.”
City officials have previously argued that there are other reasons not to focus on changing the admissions rules at five of the eight specialized schools. For one, those five schools represent less than one-quarter of seats at all specialized high schools, which means that changing admissions requirements at those schools would not dramatically increase overall black and Hispanic enrollment. Another reason, officials said, is that it does not make sense to have different specialized high schools operate under different admissions rules.
Education department spokesman Will Mantell said in a statement that “New York City is the only school system that uses a single exam for admissions, and the Chancellor continues to believe that we need to eliminate the SHSAT for all eight specialized high schools.”
Mantell said Carranza believes “state law is not entirely clear about the status of five of the specialized schools.”
Spokespeople for Mayor de Blasio did not immediately respond to requests for comment.