De Blasio to Bed-Stuy: Support UPK but Forget About Gifted & Talented Program

Stephen Witt
By Stephen Witt March 7, 2014 10:11

De Blasio to Bed-Stuy: Support UPK but Forget About Gifted & Talented Program

A representative from Mayor de Blasio’s office attended this week’s Community Board 3 meeting to drum up support for the mayor’s Universal Pre-K program, but refused to answer any questions on reinstituting a public school Gifted & Talent (G & T) program in which Central Brooklyn is greatly underserved.

Kicy Motley, the Brooklyn Borough Director of the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit, told attendees how UPK should be open to all students across the city and asked for the community’s support to lobby state lawmakers allowing a tax on those city residents earning more than $500,000 per year to pay for it.

Currently, Gov. Andrew Cuomo opposes the tax, and the mayor and governor are also at loggerheads over charter schools.

However, after her CB3 speech, Motley refused to speak with reporters about what she said or about the G & T programs, referring all questions to the mayor’s or Department of Education’s (DOE) press office.

Entrance to the city’s Department of Education’s (DOE) Gifted and Talented programs are based on verbal and nonverbal assessment tests given to children as young as four.

This year, there are 34 Gifted and Talented programs at schools in every Brooklyn district except District 16, which is made up mainly of Bed-Stuy.  District 20 schools, which are mainly made up of Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst, have 10 or slightly less than a third of the borough’s Gifted and Talented programs.

This includes the Brooklyn School of Inquiry, which is one of the city’s five magnet Gifted and Talented schools drawing children from across the borough and city. Seventy-five percent of the students attending this school are white and 13 percent Asian, six percent are black and six percent are Hispanic.

City Councilman Robert Cornegy made reinstituting G & F programs in the district a priority and sat down with DOE Chancellor Carmen Farina to talk about it two weeks ago.

Cornegy previously characterized Farina to being dismissive on the issue saying she wished every school had a G & T program.

DOE spokesperson Harry Hatfield did not respond to any questions on the issue, but remarked that there were not enough students in Bed-Stuy that warranted a Gifted and Talented program.

He also said UPK and the G & T program was like talking about apples and oranges, but Cornegy insists the two are related.

“The citywide UPK campaign and our local fight to bring Gifted and Talented programming back to Central Brooklyn are two sides of the same coin. Both are efforts to give our children the educational resources they need to succeed right in their home communities. The difference is that while the city must fight Albany to fund UPK, the Department of Education is empowered to bring Gifted and Talented education to Bed-Stuy on its own,” said Cornegy.

“The Department of Education needs to hear from parents and concerned community members as well. Please join me in telling the Department of Education that Gifted and Talented programs should serve mixed-income communities like ours as well as the wealthier communities in south Brooklyn, where programs are currently saturated,” he added.

Stephen Witt
By Stephen Witt March 7, 2014 10:11
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