Gotham Gazette Thu, 29 Oct 2020 08:16:34 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Webmaster) When the School Segregationist Dog Whistle Becomes a Bullhorn chancellor rich mayor

Students at school (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)

Dog-whistle politics refers to the use of racially-coded language as a strategy to rally perceived allies while providing plausible deniability against charges of racism. Donald Trump and the Republican Party regularly use racist dog whistles in the context of immigration, policing, public benefits, and school integration by rallying around the idea of an external racial threat of people of color to ‘white America.’ However, there is no one political party or region of the United States with a monopoly on dog-whistle politics. Even in “liberal” New York City, the debate around school integration continues to escalate and bubble over as the racist dog whistle becomes a booming bullhorn.

New York City remains one of the most segregated school districts in the country. For the past few years, educational equity advocates have proposed a number of educational reforms to address this problem. The most controversial reforms involve school integration, which have engendered controversy and backlash from conservatives and self-described liberals alike. 

In 2018, Upper West Side parents vehemently opposed integration plans that would set aside a percentage of middle-school seats in their district for students with lower exam scores. As one white parent said at a meeting: “You’re telling them that 'You’re not going to go to a school that’s going to educate them the same way you’ve been educated.' Life sucks! Is that what the DOE [Department of Education] wants to say?” Many white liberals and moderates deploy dog whistles to defend their position that racial integration will destroy the “good” schools, or take opportunities away from allegedly more deserving, gifted, and hardworking white and Asian-American students

These school integration debates have raged on, perhaps most fervently, concerning efforts to reform admissions standards at New York City’s specialized high schools. Currently, admissions to these elite schools is based on a single, high-stakes, standardized test called the SHSAT. Black and Latino students in New York’s eight so-called specialized high schools stand at an abysmal rate of around 11 percent, despite constituting 70 percent of New York City’s public school system.

Reporting by Nikole Hannah-Jones, Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times journalist and director of the 1619 Project, brought national attention to the school integration debate in New York City. Her interview with Maud Maron, who currently serves as president of the Community Education Council for District 2 in Manhattan, drew outrage precisely for Maron’s use of dog whistles to oppose school integration.

As a follow-up to Maron’s remarks opposing the Department of Education’s school integration proposals, Hannah-Jones asked: “What desegregation efforts then would you support?” Maron replied that it depends: “you have to have community buy-in,” and continued, "when people say I'm nervous that this is going to result in my kid getting a less good education, you have to take that concern as a valid concern—even if you think it's racist, and it may be."

We must heed Martin Luther King Jr.’s criticism of the white moderate, "who constantly says: 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action'; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom." Maron is a textbook example of the white moderate of whom King warned, telling Hannah-Jones that Black people must wait for a more convenient time for people like her and the many privileged parent leaders to become comfortable with integration.

Like many opponents to school integration, Maron’s comments trivialize and dismiss the benefits of school integration when rivaled with her concern that white children would have to share the same educational space and opportunities with Black and Latino children. In addition to opposing school integration, Maron and her ilk unsurprisingly oppose culturally responsive education and implicit bias training for educators. 

These anti-integration advocates hold an outsized influence over education policy, occupying critical seats on their local community education councils. And they seek to grow their influence and power, including through upcoming city elections. Maron is now taking her education platform and running on it, as a Democrat, for New York City Council in the 2021 election.

Despite Maron’s attempts to portray herself as a “liberal,” time and again she has fought against organizations like Teens Take Charge, a youth-led group that fights for educational equity, and more recently targeted a youth activist of color for raising allegations of racism with her political campaign. In response to her critics, Maron published an op-ed identifying herself as a public defender as a liberal bona fide. She goes on to say that anti-racism is what invites discrimination, and then characterizes education equity advocates as race-obsessed. In response, the Black Attorneys of Legal Aid and The Legal Aid Society, Maron’s employer, both issued statements condemning Maron’s brand of liberal racism.

Maron is no longer only speaking to Tribeca moms who secretly oppose integration in hushed voices. She is publicly dabbling in the rhetoric popularized by Donald Trump and his right wing supporters who attack and deride antiracism as political correctness and cancel culture. She has even galvanized an online army of vile racism denialists who harass and dox anyone who criticizes Maron or her segregation activism. 

One of Maron’s most ardent supporters include Thomas Wrocklage, a fellow CEC member, lawyer, and co-founder of the anti-integration nonprofit called PLACE NYC. Wrocklage comfortably engages in a range of aggressive antics to harass Maron’s critics, going as far as to dox multiple of Maron’s Black and women colleagues and fellow CEC members, and indefensibly harassing teenagers from Teens Take Charge. Maron has not denounced the offensive tactics or racist views espoused by her supporters on her behalf.  

Ultimately, the segregationist views of Maud Maron and Thomas Wrocklage are not new or unique. Attacking school integration is as American as apple pie. It is the story of the Little Rock Nine, a group of nine Black students who integrated Little Rock High School in Arkansas in 1957—only two years after Brown v Board of Education held that segregation of public schools was unconstitutional. The Little Rock Nine faced white mobs and riots, and the Arkansas National Guard was sent in to stop these nine Black children from entering their school.

This legacy of anti-Black racism and logic lives on. White mothers fought to uphold Jim Crow—they saw their moral authority derive from protecting their white children from the racial threat of integration. While people like Maud Maron seemingly couch their arguments against school integration in a thin veil of parental concern, they remain on the wrong side of history.

It is our duty to go beyond denouncing brazen, bullhorn racism. For far too long and often, more subtle, covert forms of racism go unchecked. To be clear, this is not simply a matter of political correctness or word choices. The issue before us is that the promise of Brown, 66 years later, has not been realized. We must expose and challenge the systemic racism that underpins dog whistles, and bullhorns alike, if we are to have a chance at real integration.

Rigodis Appling, Diana Nevins, Olayemi Olurin, and Jason Wu are public defenders in New York City. On Twitter @rigodis, @artemis_nieves, @msolurin, @criticalrace.

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When the School Segregationist Dog Whistle Becomes a Bullhorn Thu, 13 Aug 2020 04:00:00 +0000
Prioritize Schools - New Yorkers Demand a Real Plan for Our Students and Our City 2 parent leader

students and schools in focus (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)

It can't be easy to be in charge of New York City schools right now, facing a triple threat of crises: health, financial, and educational. However, our city as a whole can't function without our schools open—until that happens, parents, guardians, and caregivers can't get back to work; businesses across our city can't rely on their employees; and many children can't get the educational, social-emotional, and nutritional support they need.

We know there are increasing numbers of unknown variables—the resilience of the virus across seasons, the emerging science around how it spreads in school communities, its specific effects on children, and the efficacy of our city's testing and tracing programs (just to name a few). And of course, it's paramount to ensure the safety of our children, teachers, staff, and families before we open school. Yet, beyond filling out standardized surveys from the New York City Department of Education and conflicting and vague announcements, the detailed discussion of whether, when, and how to open schools is invisible to most parents and families.

We need hope. We need leadership. We need the Governor, the Mayor, and the City Council to prioritize schools.

We demand a plan—one that’s ambitious, that’s given the resources to meet this moment, and that channels the innovation, creativity, and tenacity of our city to open schools safely and effectively for the benefit of New York City and its people. 

1. The plan must show real leadership and transparency. Right now, families are kept guessing, and principals and school leaders are asked to make plans beyond their level of authority. The Governor, the Mayor, and the City Council need to offer real leadership to give direction to the Schools Chancellor and work proactively with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), parent leadership, and every government agency to move this plan into action.

2. The plan must center on equity by respecting that all families are different. Some families can't send children to school due to health risks, some need to send children so they can go to their jobs or meet their family’s nutritional needs, many have IEPs, siblings, varying rigors with commuting, and differing relationships with or accessibility to technology. Every decision about how we school our kids needs to ask how we are offering agency and partnership to the families that are most vulnerable or have the highest potential to be marginalized. We need to make decisions that proactively counteract that marginalization. Any plan for the fall must ditch a one-size-fits-all approach to education.

3. The plan must lean in to small-group learning. For health reasons, we'll need lower student-teacher ratios. This is something every educator, parent, and caregiver has wanted for decades. To meet this need will require more space, more educators, and more flexibility and creativity with when and where instruction is occurring.

4. The plan must value education more than test scores. In a crisis, there can be a default instinct to go to what's measurable, such as standardized testing. We need to resist that impulse and invest in the social-emotional wellbeing of a student population that is facing real fears and, for many, traumas. The arts, guidance counselors, and mental and physical health are all more, not less, essential.

5. The plan must protect our privacy. Even as we push digital learning as a part of a blended model, our city must only enter into agreements with vendors that keep student data secure, refuse to allow companies to share or monetize data, and allow the right to be forgotten—so that students and families ultimately control how their data follows them.

6. The plan for our children must also be a plan for parents and guardians. It needs to support adults being part-time teachers at home by giving them extended family leave from work, protections around work schedules that flex to accommodate uneven structures of in-person and remote schooling, subsidies for supplemental childcare and enrichment, or other policy measures that allow parents and guardians to support their families without losing their jobs, job security, or financial wellbeing. The plan needs to account for staff, hourly, and independent contractor jobs alike.   

There are physical structures, unemployed labor, sources of innovation, and willing and able volunteers all across our city that can be harnessed into a massive and ambitious mobilization to reopen and recreate our schools—if there's the leadership to mobilize them. Our city must tap every public and private partner it can reach to unleash our creativity, ferocity, and determination to make the 2020-2021 school year one where our students and families can safely thrive.

Justin Krebs, District 15 Presidents Council / PS 39
Cateia Rembert, President Emerita, District 15 Presidents Council
Megan Butler, President of PS 39 Parents Association
Sara Thompson, President of PS 39 Parents Association
PS 39 Parents Association
Lisa Jackson Zelznick, former President - PS 130 PTA
Mel Boller, PS130 Parkside PTA Co-President
PS 146 Brooklyn New School SLT
PS 146 Brooklyn New School PTA
Amy Tate and Anna Catherine Rutledge, Brooklyn New School PTA Co-Presidents
Maria Fusilero, acting PTA co-president, PS 295
Julie Baron, Member of the PS 39 Executive Board
Laura Limonic, Parent at Community Roots Charter School D-13
Heather Volik, PTA President PS10
Miriam Nunberg, D15 
Parents for Middle School Equity
Jackie Cazar, NYC Parent
Melissa Noonan, NYC Parent

Parent Leaders and Parent and Community Organizations can sign on here.
Any member of the public can demand the city and state prioritize a plan by signing on here.

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Prioritize Schools - New Yorkers Demand a Real Plan for Our Students and Our City Fri, 10 Jul 2020 04:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: Teachers Union President Michael Mulgrew on Reopening New York City Schools uft 600

UFT President Michael Mulgrew with Mayor de Blasio (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)

July 8, 2020 - Max & Murphy Podcast: Teachers Union President Michael Mulgrew on Reopening New York City Schools

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), joined the show to discuss the planning for reopening New York City schools in September and the various educational, health, and other measures that will need to be in place. He reacted to how Mayor Bill de Blasio has handled schools amid the coronavirus pandemic and the mayor's announcements earlier in the day about elements that will be part of the reopening plan, and more.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @JarrettMurphy. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max & Murphy," and listen to Max & Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or

Max & Murphy · Episode 233: Teachers Union President Michael Mulgrew On Reopening New York City Schools

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Max & Murphy Podcast: Teachers Union President Michael Mulgrew on Reopening New York City Schools Wed, 08 Jul 2020 04:00:00 +0000
Time for New York Schools to Get the Lead Out city school PS

With National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week coming to a close, it’s important to reflect on the work needed to reduce our children’s exposure to lead and prevent its serious health effects. Over the past year, the nation has watched a tragedy unfold in Flint, Michigan, as an entire community’s drinking water was contaminated with lead. But the problem extends well beyond Flint. In nearly 2,000 communities in every state across the country, tests have confirmed lead in the water coming out of residents’ taps. In fact, lead is even contaminating drinking water in schools and pre-schools, right here in New York.

It’s time to take the steps necessary to eliminate this serious health risk.

Lead is highly toxic, and it’s especially damaging to kids – impairing how they learn, grow, and behave. Lead can also cause high blood pressure, and even damage the nervous system and kidneys. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, our kids will cumulatively lose an estimated 23 million IQ points from lead exposure – mostly due to a high number of children exposed to low levels of lead.

Yet tests have confirmed that schools in New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and New York’s Capital Region have had lead in the water flowing from their faucets or fountains. And in all likelihood, that is just the tip of the iceberg. Most schools in New York have at least some lead in the pipes, plumbing, or fixtures that deliver the water our children drink. And where there is lead, there is risk.

Medical and public health experts are unanimous: there is no “safe” level of lead for our children. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) agree, yet water utilities are only required to take action when tests show lead in drinking water at 15 parts per billion in 10 percent of results. 

Fortunately, some progress is being made in New York to get lead out of drinking water. Last month, Governor Cuomo signed landmark legislation, which includes the toughest lead contamination testing standards in the nation, and mandates that schools across the state test drinking water for lead contamination. While this is a good first step, more work is needed to ensure that our children are truly protected from lead contamination in schools’ water.

Given the threat to our children’s health, it’s time for New York to “get the lead out.” Ideally, this means pro-actively removing lead-bearing parts from schools’ drinking water systems – from service lines to faucets and fountains – and installing certified filters at taps and fountains used for drinking or cooking. At the very least, schools should regularly and properly test all water outlets used for drinking or cooking and immediately remove from service those where the water contains any lead. Schools should also provide the public with easy access to specific testing data and the status of remediation plans.

And of course, we need to remove the lead contamination threat not just in schools but throughout our communities. In September, Congress took a first key step to help communities do just that. The U.S. Senate version of the Water Resources Development Act includes money for Flint, as well as a small grant program for communities here in New York and across the country to remove lead pipes and otherwise reduce risks of lead contaminating our water, plus $20 million for schools to test for lead. Congress should quickly approve this funding when it returns after Election Day.

Additionally, the New York Legislature should match it with state funds in the spring.

School is where our children go each day to learn and develop. It’s time for our leaders to “get the lead out” before it’s too late.

Heather Leibowitz, Esq. is the Director of Environment New York, a statewide advocacy organization. On Twitter @EnvNY.

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Time for New York Schools to Get the Lead Out Tue, 01 Nov 2016 04:00:00 +0000