Robert Cornegy calls DOE citing of current programs a civil rights issue
By Stephen Witt
Bedford-Stuyvesant City Councilman-elect Robert Cornegy said this week that he would like to meet immediately with Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio on getting Bedford-Stuyvesant both a Gifted and Talented public school program and a special education program for students with mental and physical special needs.
“It’s almost a civil rights issue where you’re saying how in Bedford-Stuyvesant, one of the last strongholds of African-American political and socioeconomic power, there is not a Gifted and Talented program,” said Cornegy.
Cornegy’s comments came a week after Our Time Press reported that Bed-Stuy is the only school district in Brooklyn without a Gifted and Talented program for public school children in grades kindergarten to fourth grade.
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.
Department of Education (DOE) spokesperson Harry Hartfield said last week the reason Bed-Stuy didn’t have any Gifted and Talented programs were because they lacked the students that could pass the test.
“G&T programs are sited within districts based on the number of students who qualify for seats within that district. Because G&T programs are distinct programs within school buildings and occupy their own classrooms, we require a minimum number of students within a district to qualify in order to make the creation of a section practical,” said Hartfield in an e-mail. “If that can’t happen in a particular district, the DOE offers eligible applicants priority to one or more program options in neighboring districts.”
Hartfield did not return answers to several follow-up questions at press time for this story.
The fact that there are no Gifted and Talented programs in Bed-Stuy comes after reports this year about a huge racial disparity in the elite academic public high schools such as Stuyvesant High School – all of which require an entrance exam.
But Cornegy questioned the kinds of criteria in which a four-year-old is tested.
In some communities, a child that is rambunctious might be considered precocious, and in other communities these same children that are from different ethnic backgrounds are labeled ADHD and given medications to calm them down, he said.
“The idea we would evaluate children differently is an idea born out of a different America. All these methodologies are born out of an old America based on prejudice, but the new America has not adjusted the methodologies,” said Cornegy, adding when local children are deemed Gifted and Talented on the current tests they are farmed out of the community.