Parents concerned about a new online kindergarten admissions system, announced by the Department of Education last week, are urging the Panel of Educational Policy (PEP) to vote no to funding the project at their meeting tonight, or to delay action until there has been time for public comment or the new mayor to take office.

"What is problematic here is they are centralizing kindergarten admissions and that’s a huge shift in policy," said Liz Rosenberg, a Brooklyn parent and founder of NYC Public, a parent advocacy group. "It was spun in a way that makes it sound like it’s simply bringing the process online. But, it’s moving from a school-based process where people walk into a school and talk to a real person to a process by which parents have to rank their schools online."

"It is a humongous policy shift and that’s not the way the press release reads," said Rosenberg.

NYC Public is urging parents who are concerned about the new policy to write to PEP members, or attend tonight's meeting at Maspeth High School in Queens. The sample letter on the organization's website, points out that when the DOE Office of Enrollment centralized pre-kindergarten admissions in 2008, they held a public hearing to explain the plan and get feedback. There has been no parent input into the new policy and the DOE has not been forthcoming with details, NYC Public says.

"This is an ambitious new project with lots of moving parts, more so than in the districts of choice in which it was tested," said Robin Aronow of SchoolSearch NYC. "Tremendous outreach is needed, particularly to communities where parents are less savvy about their options.

"There are so many different types of general education options under the DOE from zoned schools, to district wide options, to citywide options, to dual language programs, to special education programs to magnet schools, that I am wondering how this will all work out," she said. She also questioned: "Why would the DOE roll this out now with a new administration starting just as this new application process starts?"

The PEP will vote tonight on a contract with Vanguard Direct [PDF] which would fund the online system and other enrollment processes. In a letter shared with, Tory Frye, a Manhattan parent and a member of the District 6 Community Education Council (CEC) said:

"As the elected parent body charged with advising the DOE on these and other issues, our CEC has not been contacted or consulted about this proposed change, nor have the thoughts and experiences of our D6 parents been sought by the DOE. Our parents have MANY questions about this system; many are concerned that it will diminish parents' options and create another matching system, like that used in the NYC High School system."

To read more details on how the online system will work, read Insideschools' Your kindergarten questions answered and Beth Fertig's Q&A on SchoolBook.