Parents say a new Gifted and Talented proposal from the Department of Education discriminates against students at PS 166 in the Dutch Kills neighborhood of Long Island City.
Stakeholders packed PS 234’s auditorium on Monday night for the Community Education Council District 30 town hall meeting to speak to Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott. They wore red and hoisted up signs saying “Don’t discriminate against PS 166,” “Equity for PS 166,” and “Racial discrimination is illegal.”
On Friday, the city proposed a new G&T plan for District 30 — which covers Sunnyside, Long Island City, Woodside, Astoria and Jackson Heights — that would create 60 additional G&T middle-school seats at IS 126 in LIC. The new program would begin in the fall, according to the DOE.
The new plan calls for students currently in the advanced program at PS 166 to retest when entering the sixth grade.
“Meeting the children who are in the six [G&T] classes at PS 166 showcases the incredible ethnic diversity of ourDistrict 30 neighborhoods,” parent Melissa Lee said in an email.“The decision to make our children be the only children in our district G&T programs to need to retest to get into middle- school G&T programs is unfair, and discriminates against the type of program that the city would love to have more of. It’s ironic.”
“G&T students in the remaining elementary school program (PS 166)—the program with the most diverse student body, made up primarily of immigrant families—are not given any G&T middle school seats,” parent Anya Hoffman said in an email.
There are 1,179 students at PS 166 — 46 percent are Hispanic, 31 percent are Asian and 16 percent are white.
At PS 122, 35 percent of the 1,373 students are white, 24 Hispanic and 34 Asian. PS 150 holds 1,257 students with 47 percent Hispanic, 26 percent Asian and 21 percent white.
The plan allows students at Astoria’s PS 122 and Sunnyside’s PS 150 to get automatic middle-school seats in PS 122’s G&T program. New students entering the schools’ accelerated program in the fall will need to retest into the middle-school G&T classes.
A plan released in October would require students from all district G&T classes to retest upon matriculating into sixth grade. This infuriated parents, who said they moved to the neighborhood based on the promise of middle-school G&T seats.
Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said he has submitted a resolution asking for a G&T seat for every G&T student.
“We’re working in the right direction, but we are clearly not finished.”
Councilmen Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) spoke in favor of expanding the G&T program in District 30 further than the most recent proposal.
“It’s not right to single out the children of PS 166,” Van Bramer said. “It’s an unfair system.”
Walcott would not comment on the plan, but said the DOE will continue to meet with the CEC, community representatives and politicians and will release a proposal on Feb 21.
“We realize this is a very important issue that won’t be taken lightly,” he said.
The original version of this story stated that PS 166 is located in Astoria. It is actually located across the boarder in the Long Island City called Dutch Kills.