Learn NY, the group lobbying the legislature to renew mayoral control, today sent out a second message to parent e-mail lists. The message addresses concerns from parents who've been wondering why they should support mayoral control if they don't support the mayor's education policies. Answers Learn NY, in the e-mail (reprinted in full below the jump): These are fair discussions, but I would like to state that I am not here to champion or defend specific policy decisions that the mayor has made. But the fact that parents are holding the mayor directly accountable for the changes in our schools highlights the key issue for those advocating for the renewal of the law-- for the first time, we have a line of responsibility: the schools are accountable to the mayor, and the mayor is accountable to us. We are all, now, education voters. Just as much as our next mayor is responsible for keeping the streets safe and providing city social services, the mayor's job description now includes education and there is a clear obligation to insure that our schools improve. Learn NY's first message to parents (and parent bloggers) was introductory. The full e-mail is after the jump.
The Department of Education is launching an effort to include more parents in the process of voting representatives to perpetually short-staffed district parent councils. But there are already concerns that the effort will have limited impact. By state law, only a small subset of parent leaders can vote for the council members. But the department is on the verge of signing a contract to move voting online, opening the door for a "straw vote" that would allow all parents to register their preferences, Martine Guerrier, the DOE's head parent liaison, said yesterday at the monthly meeting of the Panel for Education Policy. The straw vote wouldn't count, but it would at least allow more parents to give feedback about council candidates. In the past, parents who wanted to give feedback could do so only in person, at poorly attended meetings, or by submitting written comments. The department plans to hold the straw poll in April. Opening the vote to more parents is an improvement, said PEP member Patrick Sullivan. But without a change in the law that governs who can vote officially, the straw vote will just be "more meaningless input for parents," he said.
Parent councils that are meant to serve as watchdogs over public school districts continue to be so understaffed that the Manhattan borough president is recruiting volunteers online. A member of Scott Stringer's staff contacted GothamSchools today to ask for help finding volunteers to fill two slots on Manhattan Community Education Councils. Those councils were created in 2002 by the same state law that gave control of the city's schools to the mayor, to ensure a forum for parent input in the new governance structure. The law gives CECs oversight of districts' academic and financial performance, zoning, and education and capital plans. Finding volunteers could be difficult. In 2007, Stringer himself released a report, titled "Parents Dismissed" (pdf), that cataloged council members' dissatisfaction with the level of training and support offered by the Department of Education. A survey conducted by his office found that 71 percent of council members had seen a colleague resign during the school year out of frustration. That frustration has persisted through changes in the DOE's parent outreach initiatives: Right now, 26 of the city's 34 councils currently have vacancies, according to the DOE's press office. Altogether, there are currently 66 openings for parents who want to get involved. Thirteen of those vacancies must be filled by borough presidents, and the Public Advocate has another slot to fill. (Borough presidents are actually permitted to appoint people who are not public school parents, the only way non-parents can join the councils.) Interested in joining a CEC? Contact your district's council for information. Below the jump, information from Stringer's office on how to apply for the Manhattan spots.
PHOTO: Hayleigh ColomboBrooklyn mom blogger Louise Crawford posted Learn NY's statement ##http://onlytheblogknowsbrooklyn.typepad.com/only_the_blog_knows_brook/2009/01/learn-new-york-educational-advocacy.html##on her web site##, but other parents are refusing. Learn NY is ramping up its dogged campaign to bring public school parents on board its effort to preserve mayoral control of the city schools. Its latest technique: asking parent-bloggers to post a canned introductory letter directly to their web sites. The group, which includes a set of four high-profile board members, some anonymous rich donors, and one seasoned political hand, was formed last year as the premier campaign to lobby for mayoral control when it comes up for renewal this spring. (The law could be scrapped, bringing back the old school board, revised, or kept intact.) Part of Learn NY's argument for keeping mayoral control is that, though some very vocal parents loudly criticize the system, a silent majority of non-loud parents support it — or would, if they properly understood what mayoral control is. The blogosphere campaign is part of its effort to find those parents and educate them. An earlier effort involved shooting off an arsenal of e-mails to parent e-mail lists. The campaign is hitting some snags. After e-mails went out to parent list-serves, Leonie Haimson, the executive director of Class Size Matters, denounced the group on the public school parents list serve she runs. Another blogger, David Quintana of Queens, who received an inquiry from Learn NY today, declined the offer and passed it on to press contacts. Quintana's blog includes a clock excitedly counting down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds left in the Bloomberg administration.