It is the middle of July, and few New Yorkers are thinking about school these days—except, perhaps, up in Albany.
That’s where the recently un-deadlocked Senate is slated to take up the Assembly’s school governance bill, which passed June 17, leaving mayoral control of schools fairly intact.
Senate Dems have a few amendments they’re rumored to add, including a provision that would create some sort of parent training academy. At press time, though, it sounded like those tweaks would remain ideas only, as the Assembly is unlikely to reconvene and approve additional changes.
That’s all right by us.
Certainly the Department of Education could do a better job at communicating with parents, and letting them know that their voices are being heard down at Tweed. But spending government money on a facility to help parents become better education advocates is misguided, a recipe for waste and just plain ridiculous. How will these “disenfranchised” parents find time to attend class? What, exactly, will they learn? What if the department is still unresponsive? And, most importantly, how much will such an institution cost? Whatever the price, that money is better spent in classrooms, where it can directly impact students success. Teaching advocacy is not the job of government.
Parent advocacy does, however, fall under the purview of groups like Insideschools.org, the subject of this week’s cover story. This comprehensive, informative and well-researched website has been a lifeline for city parents looking for answers. Already a respected independent public school resource, Insideschools has talked about expanding its mission to foster connections between parent users. Parents could train each other to advocate with the department, improve PTAs, navigate issues like school choice and testing and generally become more informed. This website is the ideal nexus for such an effort.
Hit hard by the recent economic downturn, though, Insideschools is struggling to stay alive. That’s a shame. We encourage the website’s users to support its mission by making a donation to the fundraising drive, and we wish staffers luck in securing additional funding. This type of independent, grassroots organization is just the sort of force that can help parents feel more included in public education—and push the department to continue striving for a higher standard.
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