Quotas and NY's kids

By the editors

The New York Post, April 19, 2000

Unless a Brooklyn Federal Court judge rules otherwise, City Hall and the Board of Education are pushing ahead with a singularly shameful surrender to reverse discrimination – at the insistence of the Clinton administration.

To be honest, the city may have little choice in the matter, which has been dragging on for more than four years.

Given how the Clintonites are looking for any means possible to publicly harass Mayor Giuliani as a way of bolstering Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Senate campaign, not giving in might have produced even bigger problems. The issue involved the hiring of public-school custodians. The title is misleading: Operating engineer might be a better term, for these are the folks responsible for all aspects of a given school’s physical plant.

Back in 1996, the race-obsessed Clinton Justice Department sued the city and the Board of Ed, charging that black and Hispanic candidates who took the custodian exam failed in numbers disproportionate to their presence in the workforce.

It was the dread “adverse impact.”

Since then, Justice has been pressing City Hall not only to drop the exam – although there’s no evidence suggesting that it’s biased – but also to compensate blacks and Latinos who have been “unjustly excluded” from custodian jobs.

To settle the suit, the city has agreed to lower the test’s passing score from 70 to 60; then, instead of ranking applicants by test score, it will put the names of those who pass into a computer, which will spit out random rankings.

Michael Reilly, a white candidate who took the test, has cried foul. He scored a 95, ranking him 34th out of 544 test-takers. But the random drawing pushed him back to 345th – so he’s filed suit.

“What was the sense of studying for the exam?” Reilly asks. And he’s right.

And here’s where things get downright bizarre: At a time when a premium is being placed on performance standards in the classroom, the city is throwing standards out for the folks who keep classrooms clean and safe in the first place.

How weird is that?

These are tough, demanding jobs.

Custodians are responsible for operation, repair, maintenance and custodial upkeep of large buildings. They hire their own staff, train them, meet payrolls and provide insurance.

They run small businesses, in fact.

Indeed, the test at issue isn’t a general-knowledge exam: It specifically examines candidates’ ability to schedule and prioritize subordinates’ work assignments, keep track of expenditures and costs and interpret Board of Ed personnel policies and union contracts.

Those who pass that part must then answer questions on heating and ventilation, electrical wiring and sewage-disposal systems.

Clearly, the higher the test score, the more qualified the candidate.

The Clinton team doesn’t contend that the test is biased. It just doesn’t like the outcome.

For Hillary’s husband, any hiring system that doesn’t produce a perfectly proportional racial mix is unacceptable.

The correct term for that is quotas, pure and simple. And quotas are what Washington is determined to impose on the schoolchildren of New York City, irrespective of the danger of putting unqualified people in charge of school boilers, among other things.

A court hearing is scheduled for next Wednesday in Brooklyn to consider questions.

Here’s one: Aging school buildings are best managed by qualified people who can pass a job-related skills test, rather than those who can’t – regardless of skin color: True or false?