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Brooklyn school battle not so 'black and white'
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By Andrea Peyser
October 2, 2015

Brooklyn school battle not so 'black and white'

The story played out in much of the media as A Tale of Two Cities — on methamphetamines.

Wealthy, white Brooklyn parents were said to be lunging for the Xanax en masse. Under a plan put forward by the New York City Department of Education, little Matilda or Asher could be booted from their precious, racially segregated and woefully overcrowded (read: majority-white) public elementary school. And some kids who live in million-dollar-plus condos in the gentrified Dumbo neighborhood would be sent to an underperforming and under-enrolled school that draws many of its overwhelmingly poor black and brown students from a housing project.

Are racists hiding out among progressive New Yorkers?

“Race and Class Collide in a Plan for Two Brooklyn Schools,’’ read a headline last month in The New York Times.

“DUMBO Parents Push Back Against Rezoning That Would Integrate Schools,’’Gothamist titled its report.

“Brooklyn — The Capital of Liberal Hypocrisy,’’ declared the National Review.

But as the truth can get in the way of a good story — particularly one that deliciously maligns 1 percenters with white skin — the Battle of Brooklyn is more complicated than presented. The white parents are less racist than they’ve been painted. And minority parents are as much, or more, opposed than their white counterparts to having their kids’ school invaded by privileged Caucasian interlopers.

The plan involves taking some affluent kids who live in the Dumbo (an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) and Vinegar Hill nabes who are bound for PS 8 in tony Brooklyn Heights and shipping them instead to PS 307, located near the New York City Housing Authority-run Farragut Houses bordering the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

(Present PS 8 students would not be moved, but incoming kindergartners would be affected.)

PS 307, a school that serves pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade kids, has a student body that’s around 90 percent black and Hispanic. About 90 percent receive some form of public assistance.

Rezoning would relieve bursting-at-the seams conditions at PS 8, a K-through-eighth-grade school whose student body is 66 percent white and Asian. Just about 15 percent of students’ families receive public assistance.

Here’s the rub: The plan would result in little change in the racial makeup of students at PS 8. But PS 307’s proportion of black and Hispanic kids would plummet — from around 90 percent to between 55 percent to 65 percent. And that’s what’s upsetting some parents who live in the housing project.

“We fought hard to build this school [PS 307], and we’re not just going to let people come from outside when we worked so hard and dedicated ourselves,’’ one Farragut Houses resident, a mother of color, said at a Sept. 16 town-hall meeting.

Can you imagine the outrage that would erupt if a white parent complained about outsiders?

Then, on Sept. 21, another town hall was held at mostly white PS 8. And this time, reporters leapt at the chance to cast bourgeois parents as opposed to racial diversity.

One white dad complained that he didn’t “want to be the bad guy’’ by pointing out that PS 307 was “severely underperforming.’’

“How does sending Dumbo and Vinegar Hill children to the school solve PS 307’s problems?’’ he asked.

The white parents “aren’t racists,’’ Gary Orfeld, the co-director of the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, told The Times. “They just don’t want to be in a ghetto,’’ he said.


I’m with the dad who wondered aloud if sending rich kids to an underperforming school would benefit anyone — the relocated students or the existing ones struggling to improve their lot.

This plan stinks.

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