Oct. 15, 2021 By Christian Murray
Two Democratic candidates running for city council held a press conference outside an Oakland Gardens elementary school Friday to protest the mayor’s decision to eliminate the Gifted & Talented program.
Democratic nominees Linda Lee and Sandra Ung—who are both vying to represent council districts in eastern Queens—gathered in front of P.S. 203 and called for the Mayor to restore the program. Lee’s son attends the school, which has a gifted & talented classroom.
The pair were joined by Congresswoman Grace Meng, State Senators Toby Stavisky and John Liu, State Assemblymembers Ed Braunstein, David Weprin and the office of Nily Rozic, City Councilmembers Barry Grodenchik and Peter Koo, and Cathy Grodzky, President of the District 26 PTA Presidents’ Council.
The attendees were critical of Mayor Bill de Blasio for scrapping the program. They said his decision was also made without consulting parents, something he had promised to do.
Many speakers also called for the expansion of G&T to more schools, including Ung whose future Council district (District 20) in Flushing does not have a single school with a G&T classroom.
Several speakers pointed to the fact that the outgoing mayor has less than three months to implement any changes, and that most of the responsibility for implementation will fall on the next Mayor.
“Over the past 8 years, the Mayor has repeated the same tactic over and over, promising to consult with stakeholders but then announcing sweeping changes before any engagement has taken place,” said Lee, a candidate for District 23 who organized the press conference alongside Ung.
“’Consulting’” after the fact isn’t real consulting, it’s insulting,” Lee said. ” As a parent running for office, I refuse to stand by while decisions are made that affect my kids and those of my neighbors. One-size-fits-all isn’t fair to students, nor will it do anything to improve educational outcomes.”
Ung also criticized de Blasio, saying the mayor failed to solicit feedback from parents and other stakeholders before making his decision.
“The mayor has made it clear that public engagement and discussion are not a priority for his administration. Unfortunately, this is something that we have seen all too often during this mayor’s tenure,” Ung said.
She said that de Blasio should have left the decision as to the future of the program to the new mayor and the incoming City Council.
Several elected officials also spoke out about de Blasio’s decision.
“Phasing out this program is a mistake,” said Congresswoman Grace Meng. “Families in my district and across New York City have anxiously waited for when the promised public engagement process would begin. Reforming the process would be the harder choice, and instead of making any adjustments, the City is taking the easier way out by implementing a mass elimination of the program.“
New York State Senator John Liu was also critical of the mayor. “It’s terribly wrong for de Blasio to simply eliminate this generations-long program without even engaging with parents about the issue as he had committed to doing. This action is disingenuous if not outright detestable.”
Meanwhile, Council Member Peter Koo said, “The mayor demonized G&T for the last eight years, but refused even the most basic efforts to fix it. Now, by simply eliminating it less than three months before he walks out the door, the mayor is shirking his responsibilities in the worst way by dodging parental engagement and avoiding accountability for a controversial new program he won’t even be here to oversee.”