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Parent group mobilizes against possible Klein appointment

Hundreds of New York City parents are writing directly to President-elect Obama with their opposition to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein as a Secretary of Education pick.

Organized by the Public School Parent Advocacy Committee, the parents are hoping to balance out the spate of positive media attention the chancellor has enjoyed in recent days. Today, for example, the New York Times noted as the only downside of Klein’s prospective participation on Obama’s “new team” his bitter relationship with Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers.

PSPAC, a consortium of PTA political advocacy committees, plans to deliver a letter to the Obama’s transition team that calls on the president-elect to choose an education secretary who has “deep practical experience in teaching and learning.” As a businessman, Klein has “disastrously neglected the fundamental needs of children,” the letter says.

Ann Kjellberg, a leading PSPAC member, told me she’s gotten about 100 signatures since Friday, when she first released the letter. Other parents are now circulating the letter by e-mail as well, she said. “I do seem to be getting some people new to this,” Kjellberg said. “A few have told me their stories of frustrations with the DOE that drive them to question a Klein nomination.”

PSPAC’s entire letter is after the jump.

Dear President-elect Obama, First of all let us congratulate you on your election. Many of us worked ardently to advance your cause, and today we celebrate the bright and hopeful years before us under your leadership. We write now as parents in the New York City public school system. We would like to urge in the strongest terms that you select a Secretary for Education with deep practical experience in teaching and learning. We feel that there is a fashion now for placing school reform in the hands of leaders outside the field. In our experience in New York this trend is catastrophic; in our view the administration of Chancellor Joel Klein has disastrously neglected the fundamental needs of children. To lead in education one must understand something about children, about human development, about the history of successes and failures in pedagogy. Please appoint an experienced educator, a person close to the lives of children, to lead our nation’s education system.