Question: Public schools are largely segregated and so with the pandemic and largely potentially being online, I would suspect that there's going to be a lot of problems with accessibility in underprivileged communities. I was wondering if the Mayor has anything to address that and if this may be a good time to address integration of schools?
Mayor: At first, yes, in terms of what I think is profound disparities running through our society –it's the entire reason I ran, everything we've been doing from day one is to deal with the tale of two cities – I think as we go through this school year, we're going to have to intensely focus on kids who are not getting their fair share. The best way from my point of view is for those kids to be in-person learning as much as humanly possible, because I think that's when we can address those disparities best. For kids who are remote only, I think it's really, really tough. Of course, extra efforts are being made to get kids tutoring, guidance, et cetera, online if they need extra help. This is particularly true for English language learners, special ed kids. But the remote context does not allow that to be done at all as effectively as in-person. That is the truth.
On the bigger question, we've made a series of steps to address the need to diversify our schools and address segregation in the city. Now I remind you, some of them have not gotten the support I think they deserve, like ending the standardized test for specialized high schools and ensuring that they represent this whole city, which they clearly don't. I've put that out very forthrightly and a lot of opposition came back. But we are going to be doing a lot more to address some of the barriers to a more diverse classroom. It's been working at the local level. That's where we found the greatest success, from the ground up. But I also will say, I really wish people would look at the foundation. The foundation is not the school system. It is housing, it's jobs, it's economic segregation. It's a segregated city. The school system can’t solve that.
Lehrer: People can be moved from neighborhood to neighborhood as Kamala Harris pointed out in her debate with Joe Biden. Right?
Mayor: And I have been really clear about the fact that in some neighborhoods where communities are close together, there's a lot of that we can do and are doing. In other neighborhoods, it's a lot harder. I don't think something like large scale school busing is a good idea for that purpose. I think we can do a lot to make our schools more representative and inclusive, but I will believe it is an honest debate when people talk about the economic underpinnings and the housing underpinnings more, and not just act like the schools can solve the problem alone. Let's desegregate the neighborhoods and you will desegregate the schools.
You really want to change things in this city? Then everyone better change a lot of the way we live more foundationally. If you just talk about it and feel self-satisfied, God bless you. That's not actually going to change things. What changes things is redistribution of wealth. Tax the wealthy at a much higher level, make sure that working people, who in this city are overwhelmingly people of color, get higher wages so they can afford better housing, help us create the affordable housing and neighborhoods that so many times there's been a NIMBY effort to stop. And the NIMBY effort has sometimes come from people I would've thought were more to the left, not just people more to the right. So if we're going to have an honest discussion in the city, which a lot of times bluntly, elite outlets and elite context don't want to have this honest conversation. You really want to break down segregation in New York City? Then let's deal with the economic reality. The economic reality is pervading the racial reality as well. And I just feel like this is a lot of cocktail party comfort going on rather than people honestly dealing with this issue. Help me tax the wealthy, help me redistribute wealth, help me build affordable housing in white communities, if you want desegregation. If you do not want to do all those things, then you're not serious about desegregation.
There's so many people who don't know what the hell they're talking about. Love to criticize, and don't even bother to do the basic research on what's going on. A PTA that does have a lot of money should share. We said the same thing with parks conservancies. Again, let's stop the cocktail party madness. If you actually are serious and you're a wealthy PTA, share with a school nearby that doesn't have a lot of money. That is addressing the tale of two cities.
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