New York City’s education chancellor Richard Carranza recently suggested the city’s “Gifted and Talented Programs” for students be changed or scrapped because of supposed racial inequality. This summer, PLF wrote about the multiple discrimination controversies surrounding Carranza’s tenure as education chancellor.
The chancellor of the New York City Department of Education controls many of the opportunities and policies that shape the education of New York’s students. Unfortunately, the tenure of Richard Carranza, New York’s current chancellor, has been controversial from the start.
Shortly after his hiring in April 2018, Carranza was criticized for his late-night retweet of a video with the inflammatory headline “Wealthy white Manhattan parents angrily rant against plan to bring more black kids to their schools.” But that retweet was only a sign of things to come. Since then, Carranza’s steady stream of racially divisive public acts and statements has caused growing concern among parents and educators alike.
Now, the controversy has extended to Carranza’s employment practices. Three veteran department employees have filed a lawsuit claiming that Carranza violated New York City’s Human Rights Law by discriminating and retaliating against them because of their race and gender. The employees claim that Carranza “targeted” them for removal from senior management positions simply because they are Caucasian women, and that he allegedly filled those positions with less-experienced and less-qualified racial minorities. The replacements were selected outside the normal department hiring process and without any of the public transparency these hiring processes usually have.
The lawsuit further claims that in justifying his race-based approach to promotion and demotion, Carranza announced to department employees that “If you draw a paycheck from [the department],” you must either “get on board with [his] equity platform or leave.” (Carranza denies making that statement.) The lawsuit seeks $90 million in damages.
Reacting to these new charges of race and gender discrimination, a group of City Council members and assemblymen wrote to Mayor Bill de Blasio expressing “deep concern” over the “hostile atmosphere” fostered by Carranza at the department. The letter denounces his behavior as “divisive” and “reprehensible” and calls on Carranza to “cease the contentious rhetoric” or else move on.
For those familiar with Carranza’s fixation on discriminatory practices in New York’s education system, the allegations against the chancellor come as little surprise. PLF recently brought a federal lawsuit asserting that Carranza and de Blasio unconstitutionally discriminated against Asian-Americans by manipulating the admissions process for the city’s specialized high schools.
PLF’s suit is brought on behalf of a coalition of affected parents and Asian-American civil rights groups. They are challenging Carranza and de Blasio’s attempt to racially rebalance the schools by altering the city’s “Discovery” program. Although that program was originally intended to help low-income students whose test scores were just below the admissions cutoff, Carranza and de Blasio have expanded the program and tweaked the eligibility criteria with the transparent intention of reducing Asian-American enrollment at the specialized schools.
Whether in school admissions or in employment and promotion, government officials like Carranza should base decisions on a person’s qualifications, not their race or gender.