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NYCLU Urges Spitzer To Implement School-Based Reform, End School Segregation

After governor Eliot Spitzer pledged yesterday to spend billions more dollars on education for New York State children, the New York Civil Liberties Union today urged the new governor to focus not only on funding but also on implementing “school-based” reform, which tailors remedial measures to failing schools’ specific deficiencies, and ameliorating persistent racial inequality in the education system.

The NYCLU endorsed the Alliance for Quality Education’s recommendation that Spitzer allocate $8.5 billion dollars in State funds toward improving public schools and satisfying the State’s constitutional obligation to provide a sound basic education to every child. The NYCLU’s additional recommendations were informed by years of substantial investigative work that has revealed persistent problems in certain failing schools. The NYCLU also urged the governor to address persistent racial segregation and disadvantage in the provision of public education.

The NYCLU recommended that the governor implement school-based reform throughout the state in order to supplement its compliance with the requirements of the settlement of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) suit on behalf of the children in New York City. “There are schools in upstate New York and in Westchester County and on Long Island that display patterns of failure that are as abysmal and distressing as those experienced by New York City children,” said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director. “Our consultations with leading education experts have shown that the characteristics of school success and failure will vary from school to school, and that therefore the State must develop a school-based approach toward school reform.”

To implement school-based reform, the NYCLU said, State Education Department officials must


  • identify the failing schools;
  • assess the sources of failure within each of these schools;
  • work with local school officials and parents and community leaders to develop a school-based remedial plan for each school; and
  • provide the resources – fiscal, pedagogical and administrative — to implement each of the remedial plans.

The recommendation that the state work to ameliorate racial inequality in the education system arises from a recent study of racial segregation in public schools, prepared by Gary Orfield and Chungmei Lee for the Harvard Civil Rights Project, which showed that “[t]he highest levels of black segregation [are] found in New York, Illinois, California and Michigan. In these states, the average black student attended schools with less than one quarter white students in 2003.” The NYCLU urged the governor to adopt a vigorous program to combat school segregation, introducing effective magnet schools and adopting transfer programs that foster integration.

“Racially segregated schools lead to inadequate educational opportunities for children of color; which lead to disparities in job opportunities and income; which lead to racially segregated housing and communities; which lead to segregated schools,” said NYCLU Legal Director Arthur Eisenberg. “This is an all too familiar cycle of discrimination and disadvantage. At long last, the State must seek to break that cycle.

Click here to read the NYCLU's letter.

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