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A week after criticism, city expands its parents bill of rights

When City Council Member Bill de Blasio criticized the Department of Education’s bill of rights for parents as being too limited last week, it was the first many of us had ever heard of such a document. Now, just a week later, the document has expanded, ballooning to an eight-page list of 57 enumerated rights divided into four sections. That’s up from five one-sentence rights published on a single Web page.

A spokesman for de Blasio said school officials alerted his office to the new bill of rights yesterday, the same day the document appeared on the department’s Web site. In a statement, de Blasio said he is encouraged by the expansion, but not satisfied.

The new version outlines a litany of specific rights for parents, including the right to receive their children’s full instructional schedule, the right to have meetings about their children’s educational record, and the right to communicate with teachers. The original bill of rights, which is also still published online, in English and a slate of other languages, was more vague, affording parents the right to things like “a free public school education” for their children and to “be actively involved in the education of their children.”

The new version does not include one of de Blasio’s recommendations, though: the right to attend a zoned school in their neighborhood. De Blasio called that omission “troubling.” His full statement is below the jump.

UPDATE: A spokeswoman for the department, Nicole Duignan, said school officials have actually been working on the expanded document for two years. She said the family engagement and advocacy office built it “based on input and experience from parents who wish to play an active role in their children’s education.”

“We always welcome ideas and suggestions from elected officials to promote and improve parent involvement in our schools,” Duignan said.
De Blasio’s statement:

I commend the Department of Education (DOE) for working speedily and utilizing my proposal to improve their existing Parents’ Bill of Rights. While this is an important first step, the DOE continues to disregard some of the most critical aspects of the Parents’ Bill of Rights. The DOE’s decision not to include language that guarantees parents access to zoned schools or provides parents with much needed budget transparency is very troubling, and leads me to question DOE’s commitment in these and other fundamental areas. In order for public school parents to be true partners in education, the DOE must demonstrate its commitment to fully engaging parents by honoring the complete Parents’ Bill of Rights.

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