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Friday, May 30, 2008

Pre K screw- up; but don't worry -- it only affects current public school parents!

Lots of news on DOE's mismanagement of the preK application process, which Tweed insisted on taking complete control of this year. Despite the headline on the NY Times, it's not that the process was "confusing to parents," it is that the DOE and their private contractor in Penn. screwed up by not honoring their agreement to give sibling preferences – so much so that many parents who have already have a child in the system got no preK placement at all.

Parents of the 20,000 children who applied for 23,000 pre-kindergarten slots began receiving letters over the weekend from the Department of Education regarding their child's placement. Many of those letters informed parents that none of the schools they had chosen were available, Ms. Gotbaum said, even in cases where there was no obvious reason for the rejection. For instance, she said, children were rejected from programs where their older siblings are enrolled, although the new process is supposed to give them priority…

In January, Mr. Klein announced that he was scrapping the patchwork of pre-kindergarten enrollment procedures, calling them "confusing, unfair and difficult to navigate," and said he would replace them with a "single, simple, fair process."

Rather than submitting applications to a single school as they had done in the past, parents this year were required to submit a single application, which was sent to a data processing center in Willow Brook, Pa.

But as the DOE spokesperson said, "the problem appeared to be affecting only families who had a child enrolled in a public school."

So obviously this is a minor problem – clearly public school parents must be used to being unfairly treated; or if they aren't by now, they should get used to it fast!

Once again, the total incompetence of this administration to get anything right cannot be underestimated.

For more on this, see the Daily News, the NY Post and especially the inside schools blog -- in which the DOE is actually trying to get away with blaming parents for filling out the forms incorrectly!


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Ms. Teacher said...

The applications are being sent to some COMPANY in Pennsylvania. Can you say "No bid contract"? What I wonder is, why was this done when the applications were handled very efficiently and ably by a family assistant in house at the site I am familiar with. I smell a rat, which is more and more the smell emanating from Tweed.

Kate Yourke said...

I think the screw-up of the pre-K sibling preference reflects a larger problem with the direction the DoE has taken and the values that direction demonstrates.

The pre-K admissions were subcontracted out, supposedly to avoid confusion and be more equitable. So much of the work this administration has undertaken, all the testing and data entry and analysis, has been subcontracted to private companies. I hear these are no-bid contracts. This a huge investment of public funds, while schools are dealing with budget cuts. Will the extra money from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity ever reach the classroom?

With the obviously shabby work the company in PA has done, making a mess of the new pre-K admission policy, what confidence should we have in the quality of work done by the companies handling these ever-more-important tests and assessments? This testing is driving the philosophy and the work of education, even beyond what is required by No Child Left Behind.

Behind these decisions is a deeply held mistrust of schools and communities, an assumption of incompetence, inefficiency, and corruption. There is historical precedent to support this attitude. But there is also a history (hello, Halliburton!) of incompetence and corruption when private subcontractors are hired with no-bid contracts to perform the responsibilities of the public sector. Where is the accountability for the poor work done by the Willow Brook, PA data processing center, hired to place our 4-year olds in their first public school? Was this a no-bid contract? How much of our precious education money was spent on this "improvement?" The growth of charter schools is another mechanism by which private interests are entrusted with public money. These schools are not accountable to the DoE, are not overseen by the District Superintendent, the CEC, or any other public accountability mechanism. Should non-educators be entrusted to manage the education of our children?

As the DoE hopefully finds ways to address at least this most recent error, the automatic rejection of legitimate sibling preference in pre-K assignments, I hope it will illuminate the larger issues and restore a structure of accountability to the NYC education system.

Kate Yourke,
mom of in-zone rejected pre-K sibling, D14