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Several Queens Legislators Criticize Mayor’s Decision to Phase Out the Gifted & Talented Program

Mayor Bill de Blasio ( Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)

Oct. 8, 2021 By Allie Griffin

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday that the city will phase out the gifted and talented program at city public schools — sparking criticism from several elected officials in Queens.

The highly competitive program, which requires kindergarteners to take a screening test, has been criticized by experts for exacerbating segregation in the city’s public schools. However, supporters say it provides advanced learning opportunities for students.

Several Queens legislators called the mayor’s decision to eliminate the program a mistake.

State Sen. John Liu, chair of the Senate’s Committee on NYC Education, denounced de Blasio for making the decision.

“G&T has been an integral option for generations of NYC school kids who learn at an accelerated rate for their grade level, and has offered hope for thousands of parents who otherwise would have completely lost confidence in public schools,” Liu said.

He said de Blasio made the decision without properly engaging the public beforehand. He noted that he did it with only three months left in office.

“De Blasio’s sudden fiat that G&T will be eliminated is disingenuous if not outright detestable, given that there is not nearly enough time left in his term to have any meaningful public engagement and for him to put any changes in place,” Liu said. “He leaves the next administration with yet another mess to clean up, and with public school parents and their children once again suffering the consequences.”

Likewise, Rep. Grace Meng urged the mayor to reconsider his decision.

“Gifted and Talented curriculums have provided students with crucial challenges that help them reach their full potential in the classroom,” she said in a statement. “Phasing out this program is a mistake.”

She added that the program should be expanded to all communities and the testing process improved to bridge access, rather than segregate students.

State Assembly Member Edward Braunstein also released a statement against the announcement.

“The Mayor’s decision to eliminate NYC’s Gifted & Talented program instead of building upon its success is highly disappointing,” he said. “For years, the G&T program has offered high-achieving students a challenging and rigorous learning environment where they could reach their greatest potential.”

He added that he hopes the incoming administration reconsiders the decision. The likely next mayor Eric Adams will ultimately make the call should he win the November election.

State Assembly Member Alicia Hyndman also denounced the move to end the program.

“I grew up in a place where being gifted and talented was not only a blessing, it was a necessity,” she said on Twitter. “It’s quite unnerving that [Bill de Blasio] would end the program as he’s about to exit. Leaving a mess for the incoming Mayor and communities to clean up as he goes.”

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo said the program should be improved rather than scrapped altogether as well.

“Mayor de Blasio’s decision to phase out the Gifted and Talented program instead of making it more inclusive with improved resources, is shortsighted and inappropriate, especially as his term ends in a couple of months,” Addabbo said.

“I believe the Gifted and Talented program should be improved to make it more accessible to all children, provide better outreach into all communities and to ensure every student has fair access to preparatory classes and tutors.”

He added that decision should be left up to the next mayor — with extensive input from parents.

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