A group of Black families in Queens, New York are calling out the city’s Department of Education, accusing the school system of neglecting their students.
“There are a lot of Black middle-class homeowners here,” local activist Michael Duncan told the New York Post in an exclusive interview. “These are successful people, successful families. The results in our schools are not reflective of the community. Something is wrong here,” Duncan added.
Families in the primarily Black District 29 formed the grassroots Students Improvement Association (SIA) to address the educational disparities in the area’s public schools, which has prompted many to pay out of pocket for private school educations for their kids. Enrollment in the district has declined every year the last four years, dropping 12.6% between 2016 and 2020.
The families point to dysfunction in recent years within the DOE that motivated them to organize. The SIA started collecting district statistics on student performance to analyze as it raises awareness about what’s going on among other parents.
According to the outlet, one school in the Hollis neighborhood of Queens only had 6% of its 5th graders pass the math proficiency exam in 2019. Only 17% achieved the minimal mark in English that same year.
“I think a lot of parents knew that it was bad,” Duncan said. “But they didn’t know it was this bad.”
Schools where per-student spending is similar saw significantly higher passing rates in math and English among students, bolstering the parents’ claims that dysfunction, not resources, is to blame. “It’s just simply not true,” Duncan said.
“Look at what is being spent. Where is this money going? Successful Catholic schools don’t spend anywhere near that. Small private schools in this district charge far less in tuition and are doing much better. There are public schools next door in District 28 that spend much less per student and are doing well.”
“The poor results we see for Black children are not a function of funding. It’s not caring and not teaching,” fellow SIA member and activist Raymond Dugue said, accusing the DOE of prioritizing employment cycles over teaching.
The group also condemned the school system of appointing leaders who have failed track records of improving schools. “If you want to improve a district, one would think that you would find a leader with a track record of achievement and turning things around,” Duncan argued. “But instead, the DOE rewards those who have failed. We feel that it’s intentional.”
DOE spokesperson Sarah Casasnovas told the outlet DOE officials met with parent leaders in District 29 “to hear their feedback and discuss their priorities.” “All students deserve a rigorous education that sets them up for success in school and life,” Casasnovas added.