“Never waste a good crisis to transform a system,” Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said at the height of the pandemic. As a member of the Queens District 28 Community Education Council, I’ve seen that transformation effort up close. As an investigative reporter, I discovered some big money behind it.
Carranza, progressive activists and operatives linked to City Hall are seeking to ram through a radical agenda before the mayor leaves office.
“We see [the crisis] as an opportunity to finally push and move and be very strategic in a very aggressive way what we know is the equity agenda for our kids,” Carranza said in an April 16 address.
District 28 is the epicenter of that effort. In December, the district CEC hosted the first meeting in the Department of Education’s “Diversity-Planning Process.” Kids, it appeared, would be moved to different schools to achieve racial balance.
The meeting was heated. Would there be busing? How would moving children fix the school-funding problems afflicting the southern part of the district in Jamaica? How would it impact schools in wealthier Forest Hills? What about the gifted-and-talented programs?
The DOE said the planning process would be led by WXY Studio, a “neutral facilitator” that would create a community “working group” to engage District 28 parents and come up with an acceptable plan.
But it soon became obvious that WXY was not “neutral” — and that Carranza and City Hall already had a plan.
The plan is detailed in the mayor’s School Diversity Advisory Group Report. It requires that District 28 and eight other districts “develop diversity and integration plans.” The districts are required to assess factors such as “controlled choice, screens, gifted-and-talented and other admissions policies and programs” for their impact on schools “that are isolated based on race or other factors.”
Controversy over WXY and diversity planning grew intense. In February, DOE agreed to push off the initial deadline and expand the process. In March, COVID-19 hit. The process was suspended. WXY’s diversity-planning contract expired in May. Diversity planning was over, I thought, at least until the pandemic passed.
I was wrong. On May 25, George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, triggering a powerful wave of protests. We felt it at the CEC too. CEC meetings echoed with angry denunciations, charges of racism and calls for diversity. Often, the worst invective came from white radicals.
In June, the CEC received an informal report that WXY was in talks with DOE to extend or renew the diversity-planning contract. No one at DOE will confirm or deny the report.
I obtained information about WXY and its parent company, Claire Weisz Architects, under New York’s Freedom of Information law. Huh! Why would a firm connected to an architectural and urban-planning interest conduct diversity planning?
The city’s financial documentation is notoriously opaque, but WXY appears to have at least $17 million in city contracts, including a $900,000 diversity-planning contract; a $3.4 million contract for renovations to the Jefferson Market Library; $9 million in consulting contracts with the Parks Department; and a “lump sum” $4 million payment from the city for “Generic Architectural and Engineering Design.”
I obtained the full WXY consulting contract. The words “diversity” and “education” appear nowhere in the 190-page document. It’s all about urban planning. It proposes that WXY founder Claire Weisz be paid $300 per hour and that WXY financial advisers get between $300 and $400 an hour.
I’d seen enough. On Sept. 3, I introduced a modest resolution at the CEC. I proposed defunding WXY — no more diversity-planning money — and pausing the process for one year. We would start over in September 2021, I proposed, when the worst of the pandemic was behind us, and create a more inclusive diversity debate.
The left went insane. Before the resolution was even presented, I was denounced as a racist, an advocate of segregation, an opponent of equity. But the CEC vote was close. The resolution fell one vote short of passing.
During my time at the CEC, I’ve seen that Gotham is filled with moderate, thoughtful people who are open to change. But make no mistake: Carranza and the left are pushing hard on a radical agenda, with rent-seeking profiteers on hand to help. We should not let that happen. Pause it. Now.
Micah Morrison is chief investigative reporter for Judicial Watch and a member of the District 28 Community Education Council in Queens.
This content was originally published here.