Testimony of Stephanie King to the BOE, August 20, 2020

Good evening. My name is Stephanie King and I am the parent of a Kearny Elementary and a Masterman middle school student. 

I’m pleased to see the District affirming in Chalkbeat that it intends to focus on equity this year. However, we’ve all seen in the past how 440 likes to say the right things and then fails to make any meaningful changes. I hope this time will be different. 

I am calling on you to take the following actionable steps toward equity and racial justice:

1.    Change the way admissions are handled at select and citywide schools.

       a.    Standardized tests determine how good a student is at taking a test, and reflect their parents’ socioeconomic status more than the student’s ability. We need to prioritize admissions policies that are fair, and stop pretending that these numbers are “objective.” A Penn Alexander student has been given every advantage over for a bigger score than a kid from Harntraft. Our systems need to stop allowing privilege to keep perpetuating itself.

2.    Address the segregation and inequality at the elementary level.

         a.I know that, for whatever reason, this administration is determined to pretend that segregation is a side issue. But when faced with the problem of diversifying the pool at your selective schools, how are you supposed to do that when you keep giving white kids better schools to start with? These are two sides of the same coin of disadvantage. 

3.    Stop practices that further hamstring disadvantaged schools, like leveling.

         a.On the flip side of all the advantages that whiter, wealthier schools are able to accumulate, parents and teachers at should not have to fight with the district to keep you from taking thing away from us. Leveling needs to end: not just for this unpredictable year, but FOREVER. We all know that it disproportionately affects black and brown students and contributes to increased turnover at their schools. In addition, leveling harms even the teachers who aren’t cut, making schools scramble to re-assign veteran teachers to grades they may not have taught before. At Kearny, there are only 2 teachers still teaching the same grade as when my family started there. Stop it. 

4.    Police free schools

        a.    We know that schools disproportionately discipline students of color and perceive the same behaviors to be more problematic when they come from a black student compared to a white one. This is contributing not only to Black students’ negative experiences with their schools, but cutting off their future pathways because of their disciplinary records. 

In conclusion: it’s one thing to say you want equity, but equity doesn’t appear like Beetlejuice or Candyman just because you said its name enough times. Equity will require real, meaningful change by taking these concrete actions.