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A pitch to expand the city's parents' bill of rights (which exists)

While lawmakers in Albany battle over how much to limit the mayor’s control of the public schools, a City Council member from Brooklyn is zeroing in on another part of the city school system he wants revised: the parents’ “bill of rights” — which apparently exists! Bill De Blasio, who is running for public advocate this year, is using the bill of rights to illustrate his argument for a “bottom-up” rather than “top-down” approach to improving public schools.

The current version of the list, created by the Department of Education and published on the department’s Web site, includes five rights that parents have (the right to file a complaint, the right to “be actively involved”) plus seven responsibilities (they must send their children to school “ready to learn,” they must keep track of their children’s performance, they must treat educators with respect).

The version drafted this week by Bill de Blasio, a City Council member from Brooklyn, outlines 10 rights that would give parents much wider latitude to participate in policy-making (plus the crowd-pleaser right to a “reasonable approach to cellular phones.”)

De Blasio has been telling supporters that he would improve the city schools by using the public advocate’s office as a kind of organizing arm of government that would empower parents to get more involved in improving their schools — and to supply them with the information required to do that.

De Blasio explained his position at a recent fundraiser in Harlem tied to education issues that I attended, where supporters brought toys to donate along with cash for the campaign and De Blasio’s two children, both public school students, made an appearance.

Here’s the full bill of rights, below the jump:

De Blasio’s Parents’ Bill of Rights

New York City Public School Parents are partners in education. Given the opportunity, they can be important allies to educators, and provide critical support to schools and students. It is in the interest of our public school system to include parents in conversations about education and important decisions that will affect families. We should treat parents, teachers, administrators and DOE representatives alike with the same mutual respect, and we should provide parents with the right resources and tools to perform their role effectively.

All New York City Public School Parents deserve a right to:

1) Free, quality zoned schools, regardless of race, income level, primary language, or neighborhood, that set students on a path to being college ready and career prepared.

2) Schools that grow with the community, respond to changing local needs, and have sufficient capacity for neighborhood students and their siblings.

3) A safe and respectful environment for children while they are in school, and while in transit to and from school.

4) Direct communication with children in times of distress or emergency, including a reasonable approach to cellular phones that addresses the concerns of parents and children.

5) Timely and accurate information about opportunities available to students, and any policy and programmatic changes that may affect families – parents should be the first to know, not the last.

6) Participate with other parents and community members in an effective body that has a defined role and provides meaningful input into school policies and programs before decisions are made, particularly decisions affecting their children, local schools and school siting.

7) Access to comprehensive and thoughtful information about the performance of children’s schools, as well as the ability to regularly provide evaluations of both schools and central administration.

8) Real and independent transparency, including access to academic data and budget information that, at a minimum, breaks down spending on classrooms, individual DOE initiatives and programs, and central operations.

9) An accessible, independent and enforceable grievance procedure.

10) Open lines of honest, respectful, two-way communication with local school representatives and Department of Education officials who have the capacity to solve problems within the DOE, as well as access to translation and interpretation services to enable all parents to communicate effectively.

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