New York Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a press conference on Friday that the “COVID era has taught” him that “fighting disparities and inequality in every part of the life of New York City” needs to take precedence.
De Blasio—who made the remarks while talking about education and policing in the city—said: “We can never go back to a past that didn’t work. COVID—the COVID era has taught us that so clearly.”
“And we need to do better and we will, and that means a commitment to fighting disparities and inequality in every part of the life of New York City,” he said. “And that certainly takes us to education, where if you’re talking about the problems of disparity, if you’re talking about structural racism, certainly policing is not the only area to talk about. There are many areas to talk about, and education must be front and center.”
“And from the beginning, what I tried to focus on was a very simple concept, equity and excellence — that we needed to profoundly change the distribution of resources,” he continued. “I like to say very bluntly, our mission is to redistribute wealth. A lot of people bristle at that phrase — that is in fact the phrase we need to use.”
Partial transcript provided via the mayor’s office:
Good morning, everybody. We have a lot to go over today. Chancellor Carranza is here and we’re going to be making an important announcement related to education. But first, let me speak to the report that came out this morning from our Department of Investigation – a very, very important report, looking back on the protests in May and June. It is a clear, blunt, clear – objective report, an honest report. I want to state my full support for the conclusions and the recommendations in this report. I want to thank Commissioner Margaret Garnett and the whole team at the Department of Investigation. We needed objective, unsparing look at what happened in May and June. We needed to understand what went right, what went wrong, what needs to be different, what needs to be better. I certainly take full responsibility for the issues that are raised in the report and the changes that we have to make. So, I asked for an independent review, I got an independent review, and I support that review and its findings.
We’ve got a lot of work to do. I am confident we can do that work. We will implement the recommendations in the Department of Investigation report, but we’re going to go farther than that. The work of reforming the NYPD, of deepening neighborhood policing, of changing police culture – that work must intensify, and it will in the year 2021. A lot is already being planned that will be unveiled in the coming weeks. But the bottom line is we can never accept a broken status quo. We can never go back to a past that didn’t work. COVID – the COVID era has taught us that so clearly. And we need to do better and we will, and that means a commitment to fighting disparities and inequality in every part of the life of New York City. And that certainly takes us to education, where if you’re talking about the problems of disparity, if you’re talking about structural racism, certainly policing is not the only area to talk about. There are many areas to talk about, and education must be front and center.
There has been so much that needed to be addressed in education in New York City. And from the beginning, what I tried to focus on was a very simple concept, equity and excellence – that we needed to profoundly change the distribution of resources. I like to say very bluntly, our mission is to redistribute wealth. A lot of people bristle at that phrase – that is in fact the phrase we need to use. We have been doing this work for seven years to more equitably redistribute resources throughout our school system. That means Pre-K for All, 3-K for All, Advanced Placement courses in every high school, including those that never had a single one. It means changing school funding formulas. There are so many things that we’ve tried to do to profoundly rebalance the equation – community schools, focusing on schools that [needed] the help the most [in] communities that had not been invested in. That work will continue this year, for sure – this hardest of all school years. But starting in September, the Chancellor and I announced our 2021 Student Achievement Plan, which is going to focus on closing the COVID achievement gap and ensuring that there is fairness for our kids, support for them, but with a special focus on the 27 neighborhoods most deeply affected by COVID – and those are black communities, Latino communities, Asian communities that bore the brunt. So, this work has been going on in a lot of different ways over the last seven years. It has to intensify now, given all the lessons we’ve learned during this most painful of years.
As we look beyond this year, we understand that there are many, many tools, many things we can do differently, and it’s time to start using every tool at our disposal to address inequality and to improve the education of all children. And those two things go together, addressing inequality, stopping disparity, and improving education for all – that’s one continuous mission. So, today, we’re announcing changes to our high school and middle school admissions policies. And I think these changes will improve justice and fairness, but they’ll also make the process simpler and fairer, particularly given what we’re dealing with this year and all the results of the coronavirus that have changed the way we have to do things. So, beginning right away – and this will be for the 2021-22 school year, but the admissions process, obviously, will be starting now – for middle schools, there’ll be a one-year pause for screens – for screened schools for those criteria used in “screened schools.” Those criteria will be put on pause for next academic year and for the admissions process happening now. For high schools, we will eliminate geographic priorities over the next two years, thus giving a much bigger swath of the city an opportunity to experience some of our great high schools.
We also be expanding diversity planning to all 32 school districts in New York City – that will happen over the next four years. Right away, we’re going to get five more districts going in that effort. The districts that have done that work have seen extraordinary results. District 3 and District 1 in Manhattan, District 15 in Brooklyn – my district, where I started out as a community school board member – have had tremendous success with diversity programs, with efforts to make schools better for everyone and more inclusive of everyone. And they’ve shown it can work for everyone. So, you’re going to see a lot more of that starting now and in the next year, and the years ahead. Here to give you a sense of how this will all come together, our Chancellor Richard Carranza.