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Park Slope high school students call new school plans racist

Students from three Brooklyn high schools protested tonight the arrival of a new, selective school that will open in their building next year, arguing that the city has neglected their schools.

Students from the Secondary Schools for Law, Research, and Journalism marched up and down a Park Slope sidewalk this evening chanting and waving signs at startled passersby. All three 6-12 schools share the John Jay High School campus. The city has told them to make room next year for a fourth: the Millennium Brooklyn High School.

Modeled on Millennium High School in lower Manhattan, the new school answers some Park Slope parents’ demands for a selective high school in the area, but it’s also become a source of racial tension. Each of the three schools on the John Jay campus is heavily black and Hispanic, whereas the new school — if it imitates its model in Manhattan — will be predominantly white and Asian. It’s likely to have fewer poor students than the other schools and most of its students will enroll with higher test scores and a significantly greater shot of graduating and going to college than their peers in the rest of the building.

Standing outside of the John Jay building this evening, students from the three schools carried signs accusing the Department of Education of racism.

“If this isn’t it, then what was the point of Brown v. Board of Education?” read one sign.

Students and teachers’ main complaint is that Millennium Brooklyn is opening with extra funding, which new schools routinely get, while their schools’ budgets are shrinking because of citywide cuts and, in some cases, declining enrollment. According to a memo written by Jill Bloomberg, the principal of the Secondary School for Research, her school will lose $400,000 this year because enrollment fell by 50 students.

“We have no funds to pay teachers to run our Saturday Academy,” Bloomberg wrote. “We suffer from a shortage of textbooks and funds for student trips and we have no budget for recruitment or community outreach.”

The Secondary Schools for Law and Journalism will lose more funding next year when their middle schools grades begin to phase out. In the city’s Educational Impact Statement officials wrote that these programs suffer from “chronic under-enrollment and an inefficient use of resources,” and are not being removed to accomodate Millennium.

Bloomberg said that the three schools also suffer from an image problem caused by an old building that’s fallen into disrepair and metal detectors, which she argued are unnecessary.

Opened in 2001 to replace John Jay High School as it was being closed for poor performance, the schools began as one school that was then divided into three. Now, all of them are struggling to stay open. Last year, none of them posted a four-year graduation rate higher than 67 percent.