Beth Fertig is the contributing editor for education, covering the New York City public school system for WNYC on air and online at SchoolBook.org. She has covered education in the city for more than 15 years. Beth is the author of Why cant u teach me 2 read? Three Students and a Mayor Put Our Schools to the Test (FSG Books) which grew out of a radio series on the low graduation rate for special education students. Follow her @bethfertig.
City Holds Do-Over in Community Education Council Elections
Thursday, May 12, 2011
After being harshly criticized for bungling this year's community education council elections, the city has announced a do-over.
Parents will get to vote all over again for candidates to the 36 different councils starting on May 18 and ending May 25. Schools Chancellor Walcott said the city "should have done a better job" at managing the elections.
Parents complained that they had trouble voting online and that some candidates didn't get onto the ballots. Those concerns and the threat of a lawsuit prompted the chancellor to effectively halt the election this week.
"I think that was the wise and only choice for the city to make," said Mona Davids of the New York City Parents Union, a group that planned to go to court over the election process on Monday night and spent the next two days in negotiations with the Department of Education.
Davids said the city didn't comply with the state because it didn't give parents enough time to get up to speed for the election in January. The process started a few weeks later than usual this year because of changes with its contracting process. Davids also said the city disenfranchised parents by requiring them to log on to a password-protected website. The last election two years ago was also held online.
When the elections start over next week, the city will provide assistance to parents who don't have computers or don't understand the process by letting them use computer rooms in the schools and having parent coordinators guide them.
"So now parents who are not computer literate will have someone there to help them vote," Davids said. "And parents who do not have access to a computer, when they drop their kids off at school or pick their kids up or any time during the day, can come in and vote."
Community education councils are liaisons between schools and the city. Parents vote for candidates in two phases. The first is a non-binding advisory vote, which ended on Saturday, May 7, but will now start over again next week. PTA leaders then make the final choices in the second round which will start on May 27 and conclude June 1.
Only about 500 parents are running for a total of 325 seats on the 36 different councils throughout the city. That's a decline of 10 percent since the last election two years ago. Parents have complained that the CECs don't have enough power because they're merely advisory, and can't stop the Department of Education from opening or closing schools.