New York City Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza, who has been running the nation’s largest school district for about a month, just sparked a controversy — his first — with a tweet that includes the words “WATCH: Wealthy white Manhattan parents angrily rant.”
On Friday, Carranza tweeted about a report on the Raw Story website that detailed how some white parents in a wealthy Upper West Side neighborhood in Manhattan were vocally upset at a meeting about a plan to diversify neighborhood schools. That story referred to a video that had been posted by Spectrum News NY1 showing what happened at that meeting.
At first, Carranza said he had no regrets, but Monday he apologized to anyone who was offended — while noting that the words in the tweet weren’t actually his. And he said he would push forward with school desegregation.
The proposal is part of a broader effort announced last year by the New York City Department of Education to increase racial and socioeconomic integration in its schools.
U.S. public schools began to desegregate after the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were unconstitutional because they were “inherently unequal.” But in the past few decades that stopped and many schools began to re-segregate. Federal data showed that the number of high-poverty schools serving primarily black and brown students more than doubled from 2001 to 2014.
Segregation in public schools has been linked to lower academic achievement among minority students. Schools with a big majority of students who live in poverty have higher dropout rates, fewer experienced teachers and far fewer resources than schools with majorities of middle- and upper-class students. Researchers say that integration benefits majority and minority students in academic and social realms.
What sparked opposition at a recent meeting at P.S. 199 was a specific plan for the 17 mostly white middle schools on the Upper West Side of Manhattan to give 25 percent of their seats to mostly minority students who performed low on state standardized tests.
The plan is said to have strong support among school leaders, educators and parents — but not everybody is on board, as evidenced at the meeting, when some parents from the area complained. One can be heard on the video (see below) saying:
You’re talking about an 11-year-old, “You worked your butt off and you didn’t get that, what you needed or wanted.” You’re telling them: “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?
Middle School 245 Principal Henry Zymeck, who supports the plans, told the parents at the meeting that some of their comments hurt him.
“There are kids that are tremendously disadvantaged,” he said. “And to compare these students and say, ‘My already advantaged kid needs more advantage, they need to be kept away from those kids,’ is tremendously offensive to me.”
Parents and others publicly criticized Carranza, and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said on his weekly WNYC radio appearance that he wouldn’t have used those words to express his position about diversifying the schools. But Carranza said he didn’t actually write the tweet. Rather, according to 1010 Wins, he said he clicked on the Twitter share button on the Raw Story report, and this is what came up on his Twitter feed (see tweet above):
WATCH: Wealthy White Manhattan parents angrily rant again…A new effort to diversify schools in the Upper West Side of Manhattan — one of the richest neighborhoods in the city — has”
The tweet was still on his Twitter feed Monday, but by late in the day, Carranza had apologized if anyone was hurt by the tweet. But he said he believes that school desegregation is important. “I apologize to any community that feels offended,” he said, according to 1010 News. “… I want to reiterate those are not my words.”
De Blasio selected Carranza — the grandson of immigrants from Mexico — last month as chancellor after Miami-Dade schools chief Alberto Carvalho backed out. Carranza had been running the Houston Independent School District for less than two years, arriving in August 2016 after spending four years as superintendent in San Francisco. He was a bilingual classroom teacher, a school principal and a senior-level administrator in Las Vegas and Tucson.