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Fewer apply to serve on parent councils

Monday, April 25 update: We asked the DOE for a final count of applicants but it was not available yet, according to a spokesperson. They are waiting to count mail-in applications.

Tonight at midnight is the deadline for parents to submit an application to serve on district and citywide education councils but, as of last night, only 434 parents had nominated themselves to fill 325 seats. Unless today brings in a final surge of applicants, this will be the lowest number of parents running in the last two elections. In 2009, more than 500 parents signed up to run, down from 690 candidates in 2007.

Citywide and District Community Education Councils are parent advisory boards which approve zoning changes and offer recommendations on how school buildings are used and how DOE policies affect schools. The councils, which replaced the old school boards, have little actual power to effect change, and their monthly meetings are usually not well-attended.

This year's lack of  interest suggests that a change in the law to permit Parent Association and PTA officers to serve has not been successful in convincing more parents to run.

Meanwhile, there has been a push from the New York City Charter School Center to get parents from charter schools to run. Although most charter school parents are prohibited by law from joining a council because they are not part of the district school system, borough presidents may appoint charter school parents to the community district councils and the Public Advocate may appoint them to the four citywide councils, representing high schools, special education students, and English Language Learners.  In addition, charter parents who also have a child in a district school or who have had one enrolled in the past two years, may serve.

An email from the Center's Charter Parent Advocacy Network, circulated on the NYC Parents listserv, urged parents to file an application, stating: "This law creates an unfair divide among public school parents...district school parents are represented, charter school parents are not. We are working to fix that!"

The siting of charter schools in district public schools building has been a contentious topic at many CEC meetings this year.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer recommends better recruitment and training for CEC members to help them better understand school budgets and zoning, according to WNYC education reporter Beth Fertig.

WNYC also reports that, as of Thursday, five of the councils do not have enough candidates to fill a quorum. Although the Department of Education would not give specific numbers, District 19 in East New York had the fewest number of candidates and District 1 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan had the most.

Forums to meet the candidates begin in each district next week. The schedule is posted here. Only PTA and PA officers may vote in the council elections, although parents may cast advisory votes online between May 1 and 7. Official elections are held May 10-17. For a full rundown on the rules and regulations, or to nominate yourself before the midnight deadline, see the Power to the Parents website.

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