Congressional Race: Bunkeddeko, Clarke Spar Over Education

Adem Bunkeddeko, who is again challenging U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Kensington, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Midwood, Sheepshead Bay, Marine Park, Gerritsen Beach, Prospect Lefferts Gardens) in next years Democratic Primary for New York’s 9th Congressional seat after narrowly losing to her in 2018, this week released his education plan, “Race to Racial Fairness School Desegregation Initiative.”
Adem Bunkeddeko
Congresswoman Yvette Clarke

But Clarke’s campaign quickly dismissed the plan, charging Buneddeko with not understanding the differences between city, state and federal legislative jurisdiction.

“A good education is life-changing, and I was incredibly fortunate to go to schools that allowed me to thrive. But those doors aren’t available to all students, partly because New York has one of the most segregated school systems in America,” said Bunkeddeko.

“In 2018, I proposed a ‘Race to Racial Fairness’ initiative to strike back at segregation in our schools; now we have updated it because we still need a Congressmember who will show up and lead the fight to give our kids the education they deserve,” he added.

Bunkeddeko’s plan promotes integration by addressing the underlying causes of segregation such as provide funding for school districts that change historically discriminatory district lines and allocating a portion of Title I funding towards school integration.

Additionally, Bunkeddeko proposal would provide at-risk school districts with funding to recruit and retain teachers of color and increase the number of teachers; expand regionalization of districts and inter-district compacts allowing for more flexible attendance zones, and eliminate, what he called “racist” admissions standards and expand enrichment opportunities.

Standardized tests often have a racial bias, so using a single test score as the gatekeeper to top schools worsens racial inequality. Admission to specialized schools should be based on multiple criteria, to narrow and eventually eliminate the opportunity gap between children of color and white children, said Bunkeddeko.

Other prongs of Bunkeddeko’s plan include:

  • Develop a national Education Equity Audit to effectively assess schools beyond test scores (i.e. class sizes, # of counselors, # of AP/Honors classes, etc.).
  • Give additional funding to schools willing to recruit and accept students across race, economic status, and perceived ability.
  • Provide grants for underserved schools to hire additional staff, reduce class size, improve resources, and strengthen support services.
  • Provide grants for trainings for teachers to address racial and gender biases in teaching styles and expectations.
  • Expand access to accelerated programs including honors/AP coursework; as well as art, music, STEAM, PE, and test prep.
“Segregation is not only morally wrong, it also hurts our nation and deprives us of the talent we need to grow and thrive.  A great education shouldn’t be based on race, zip code or luck, so we must do more at the federal level to improve our educational system. Addressing segregation and creating equal access to educational opportunities will help all students thrive,” said Bunkeddeko.

Clarke’s Political Director L. Joy Williams responded that these types of education issues are normally handled on the state and city level.

If Mr. Bunkeddeko is so passionate about this perhaps he should consider running in 2020 and 2021 in state and local races,” said Williams. “While this is primarily handled at the state and local levels, the congresswoman said there is a secretary of education [Betsy DeVos] who has completely made the civil rights division in the Department of Education inept and that is something her and the Congressional Black Caucus have been adamant about addressing.”

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