Public Advocate Jumaane Williams: Let me know when I can speak.

East New York Assemblyman Charles Barron: You speak when I'm finished.

Williams: Ok, I will.

Barron: I'm finished, you speak.

Williams: You finished a few times, though.

Some of the city's black legislators squared off against each other during a contentious hearing Friday as debate continues around the city's Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT).

Following this year's acceptance results — in which only a small number of black students were offered admission to the city's most selective public high schools — officials have been under pressure to reform the system.

"The majority of the children in public schools are black and Latino, and the public advocate is not supporting a bill that's going to get us from nine percent to 45 percent. Shame on you," Barron said.

Williams is supporting a plan that would keep the test, expand gifted and talented programs, and provide students with increased access to test preparation. Williams, a specialized high school graduate, credits his success in part to the test.

"If we got rid of all of the eight specialized high schools — forget the test. If we just took them out of discussion, what we would have is the most segregated system of education in the entire country. What we would have is a system that is not educating black and brown students in particular," Williams said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza want to scrap the admissions test and create a new system that would admit the top seven percent of students in each middle school. But de Blasio can only do so with the support of the state legislature.

"We cannot keep kicking the can down the road. For almost half a century — and in the month that we celebrate the 65th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Ed. Supreme Court decision — we have allowed the current system to persist," Carranza said.

An official from Al Sharpton's National Action Network testified in favor of eliminating the test during Friday's hearing. De Blasio took to Twitter to praise the organization, even as longtime Sharpton ally Kirsten John Foy led a rally in support of preserving the test.

"Dividing along racial lines is an unacceptable practice, whether it's done and emanating from the White House or whether it's done and emanating from City Hall," Foy said at the rally.

Black and Latino students make up 68 percent of the city's student population. Of the 44 percent who took the test, only about 10 percent of students accepted reflected those demographics.


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