On Aug. 18, Seth Breland, Republican candidate to represent New York’s 25th District in the State Assembly sat down with Vision Times to discuss his platform which is focused on tackling surging crime in the northeast Queen’s district and addressing various issues impacting education.
New York’s 25th District encompasses northeast portions of Queens, including the Flushing, Queensboro Hill, Hillcrest, Fresh Meadows, Oakland Gardens, Bayside and Douglaston communities.
Breland, was born and raised in northeast Queens where he attended public school. He says that he is “truly in love” with the community and is excited for the opportunity “to give back to Queens.”
Breland has been active in politics for many years having sat on multiple advisory councils and having served on the Community District Education Council 26 for six years, which involved visits to classrooms across the district, listening to family and teacher concerns and addressing numerous education related issues.
Breland is facing off against longtime incumbent Nily Rozic this November who has been in office since 2013. Rozic, a Democrat, is endorsed by the Working Families Party, a party known to support the “defund the police” movement. In 2019, Rozic voted in favor of bail reform laws which Breland says has done nothing but make New York City streets less safe.
“We have a disastrous bail reform bill that passed in 2019, that has made our streets less safe. It has made every community in New York City, from the Asian community, to the South Asian community to the Jewish community, less safe,” Breland told Vision Times.
According to a recent report published by the Manhattan Institute, shortly after the new bail reform laws were implemented, burglaries in New York state rose by 26.5 percent; robbery rose by 33.9 percent, shooting incidents surged by almost 23 percent and car theft soared by 68 percent.
When asked if the cashless bail system was to blame for the surging crime Breland did not hesitate to answer, “yes.”
“We see career offenders getting arrested 6, 10, 12 , 20 times and still being let out and that is a huge failure. How are New Yorkers supposed to go out and feel safe when the same people who just stabbed somebody the day before are out on the street again?” Breland said adding that, “So I do blame the crime bill and bail reform for the biggest reason that New York is experiencing a big rise in crime.”
A specialized high school in every borough
A staunch supporter of public education Breland told Vision Times that he wants “to see a specialized high school in every single borough in New York City.”
In 2018, specialized high schools in New York state came under attack by the de Blasio administration that claimed the admission process to the schools was racist.
At the time, de Blasio proposed scrapping the admittance exams for the schools altogether saying that it disadvantages students who do not have access to test prep, which his administration claimed disproportionately affected black and Latino children from low-income areas. The administration also proposed offering 20 percent of seats in the specialized classrooms to low-income students arguing that these measures would allow for a more equitable selection process.
According to City & State New York, in 2018, Stuyvesant High School, one of eight specialized high schools in New York City, and a school that is regarded as the most selective when it comes to admissions, enrolled a total of 37 students from the black and Latino population out of a total of 801 new enrollees despite efforts to increase diversity in its student body.
However, over 50 percent of students admitted to the eight specialized schools were Asian-American and, according to the same report, over 50 percent of enrollees at Stuyvesant are Asian-American.
The proposed changes tabled by the de Blasio administration prompted Soo Kim, president of the Stuyvesant Alumni Association to tell CBS2 that the proposal was like “The Asian Exclusion Act of 2018.”
Breland said that the “merit based system” currently in place, “is not racist. It admits the best people.”
“The only way out of poverty, in my opinion, is through education. So, the last thing that we should be doing as elected officials or education leaders … is limiting students’ options,” Breland said.
Eliminate mayoral control and fix the funding formula
In addition, Breland says he wants to eliminate mayoral control of public education and overhaul the funding formula for public schools in the state.
Breland said that mayoral control of public education is a political tool, wielded to primarily forward political agendas and that the centralization of power is a detriment to serving distinct communities in New York telling Vision Times, “You cannot govern northeast Queens like you do lower Manhattan. You can’t govern Staten Island as you do Williamsburg, Brooklyn, there’s different demographics, there’s different populations, there’s different issues, and to think that you can have one central power controlling all of it, it just leads to unfairness.”
He took aim at how public schools are funded in the state arguing that the state has “an unequal funding formula.”
“When you look at your local high school, and you see the lack of … programs and things like that, it all comes down to funding,” Breland said, adding that when funding goes through the city first, funds inevitably get lost and do not benefit schools directly.
“When you have the money coming from Albany down to the city, and the city is deciding to spend it on whatever they do, instead of actually putting it into our schools, that’s how the money gets lost, so I want to see a more direct source of funding to our schools and more direct governance of our schools and local school districts,” he said.
To fix the funding issue Breland believes that the Chancellor, and the mayor need to be removed from the equation saying that “what we’ve seen them use the money on is sometimes programs that have nothing to do with bettering education,” adding that “I definitely want to see an investigation into the DOE to see where the money is actually going.”
The 2022 New York State Assembly election will be held on Nov. 8 this year which will elect representatives for all 150 districts across the state.