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DOE to allow more parents to (sort of) vote for district leaders

The Department of Education is launching an effort to include more parents in the process of voting representatives to perpetually short-staffed district parent councils. But there are already concerns that the effort will have limited impact.

By state law, only a small subset of parent leaders can vote for the council members. But the department is on the verge of signing a contract to move voting online, opening the door for a “straw vote” that would allow all parents to register their preferences, Martine Guerrier, the DOE’s head parent liaison, said yesterday at the monthly meeting of the Panel for Education Policy.

The straw vote wouldn’t count, but it would at least allow more parents to give feedback about council candidates. In the past, parents who wanted to give feedback could do so only in person, at poorly attended meetings, or by submitting written comments. The department plans to hold the straw poll in April.

Opening the vote to more parents is an improvement, said PEP member Patrick Sullivan. But without a change in the law that governs who can vote officially, the straw vote will just be “more meaningless input for parents,” he said.

And he questioned the logic behind creating a symbolic vote in a time when concrete programs and services are being cut. “We can’t hire substitutes and we’re going to spend money having a straw vote?” Sullivan asked.

Guerrier said the cost of the vote is likely to be “less than you would think.”

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