Thursday, January 3, 2008

Restore parent power: send a message to Commissioner Mills today!

On Dec. 31, Marie Pollicino, a parent and Community Education Council member from Queens, filed a class action complaint with the State Education Department on behalf of all NYC public school parents. Her petition says that the new regulations adopted by DOE that strip away the rights and responsibilities of School Leadership Teams to decide on school-based budgets and Comprehensive Education plans are unlawful and unwarranted, and should be reversed.

She also points out that the process of amending these regs was contrary to state law by not involving CECs or any other official parent group, and she asked for a stay, so that the previous regulations that provided real decision-making authority to SLTs should be retained until the Commissioner determines the propriety of the amendments.

Her petition is posted here; it makes a very compelling case. It follows an earlier letter to the Commissioner from the NY State Assembly Education Chair Cathy Nolan, who made several of the same points.

Given more resources and authority delegated to the school level, and the huge pressure put on principals by this administration to raise test scores and spend nearly all their discretionary funds on data analysis and test prep, to the exclusion of nearly everything else, it is more crucial than ever before that parents be able to provide a countervailing force to see that resources are invested properly – on reducing class size and improving learning conditions in our classrooms.

This regulation is yet another insidious way in which the administration is systematically trying to strip any ability for parents to have a voice in the way their children are educated.

Please contact the Commissioner Richard Mills, with a copy of your email to the Regents, Assembly Member Nolan, City Council Member Robert Jackson, Chancellor Klein and the Mayor, as well as your own elected reps in the Legislature and City Council – whose emails you can easily gather by plugging in your address here. A sample message along with email addresses is below; feel free to add anything relevant to your situation or that of your child.

nolanc@ (and your state and city council reps)

Dear Commissioner Mills and the Board of Regents:

I urge you to support the class action petition by Marie Pollicino of the District 26 Community Education Council, on behalf of all NYC parents, and reverse the unauthorized and illegal action of the NYC Department of Education to eliminate the authority of School Leadership Teams to collectively determine each school’s budget and Comprehensive Education Plan. This amendment to the regulations governing the rights and responsibilities of SLTs would remove the ability of parents to help determine the spending priorities of their children’s schools, and was done without consulting Community Education Councils and/or any official parent group, contrary to state law and regulation.

I urge you to restore the regulation to its previous version, which properly recognized the rights of parents to be full partners along with the principal and staff in decision-making at the school level.

Yours, [Name, home address, school, and leadership position if any.]

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