The Education Department Treats Parents Not As Partners, But As Mushrooms
There was a time when parents had a real say in the education of their children. Even though there were problems with the Community Board system and some of the local board's members were guilty of transgressions, it seems now that those were the Golden Days of Parental Involvement.Every parent could vote for or even become a school board member. The school boards chose the superintendent, decided on who would be the principal and assistant principal of schools within their board area. School board members had the decision-making power on curriculum and spending. They were all-powerful and, truthfully, perhaps too powerful. Today, however, the opposite is true. The city's Department of Education treats all parents as if they were mushrooms. The DOE spreads manure all over them and keeps them in the dark. When the Mayor took control of the public schools with the help of the state legislature, he created Community Education Councils to replace the community boards. No longer would the parent's representatives be elected by a wide-range of parents, but by the top three parent association officers in each school. Those councils have been stripped of all power except that of rubber-stamping what the Regional Superintendent wants. That is why parents all over the city are voting with their feet by staying away from the entire process. Last week, there was a candidate's forum in this district. Andrew Baumann was the only candidate to show up. Nobody cares about being on the community education council because they know that the councils are a farce and that, under our mayor, parents have no voice in the educational process. "With parents fuming that the councils have no real authority, no power to institute policy, and no influence with the Department of Education, the elections, which run through May 8, have been foreshadowed by skimpy attendance at candidate forums. And, in some cases, there is a distinct lack of candidates to run for vacant seats," is the way one daily paper put the problem. One CEC member told me that he is leaving because, "the DOE decides first and tells us about it later." He says that even the local school principals have no regard for CEC members because they have no power in the education game. Within the next two years, the entire school governance question will resurface for a vote by the legislature. Whatever our state legislators do in this regard, they should do something to give parents a say, to make them true partners in the education of their children.