Thursday, July 21, 2005

Community Education Councils

The Gotham Gazette has a closer look at the first year of community education councils in New York City, which replaced the 32 community school boards last fall. Each council has 9 parents (elected from school parent associations), 2 members appointed by the borough president and one high school senior.

As to be expected, the community education councils did not run particularly smoothly their first year. One of the biggest problems mentioned in the article was the high number of unfilled seats on the councils, which probably stems from the lack of parent participation in general. In the section of Queens where I work, most of the middle and high schools get a very low parent turnout at PTA meetings and even parent-teacher conferences (the primary schools do a little better), so it must be hard for these education councils to function.

Another problem with these councils is the fact that they really don't have any power - all the successes from the article have to do with publicizing issues or forcing a hearing. Joel Klein even took away their power over school choice in their region during the year. Publicizing complaints can be an effective way to make changes, but there should be a way for these councils to have more of a direct impact on schools. It seems to me that the councils could be a powerful tool for generating parent involvement and fostering community relations in diverse communities that outside of schools have few ways to interact. But it won't happen until parents feel like they can make a difference through the education councils.

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