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Assembly members unenthusiastic about parent training center

A bill that would create a parent-training center is expected to sail through the Senate next week. But it could face an uphill battle in the Assembly.

Assembly members said today that they had serious doubts that the state should spent money on a parent-training center when the city’s school system has already gone through a round of budget cuts. Others were skeptical that parents of public school students would benefit from training. The center would cost the state $1.6 million, and would be housed at CUNY.

“It sounds like a colossal waste of money to me,” said Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Queens). “I know people want to have parent training, but our problem has never been that the parents don’t know what they’re doing, it’s that there’s no power locally,” he said.

“Obviously the senators seem to think they have a deal, but no one has checked with us,” Weprin said.

Assemblyman Micah Kellner (D-Manhattan) was equally unenthusiastic. “I’m not a fan of the idea of parent training centers,” he said. “If we want a better relationship between parents and the DOE [Department of Education] it’s not about parents needing to be trained better, it’s about making sure the DOE is listening to parents.”

“It seems like a boondoggle to me,” he added.

Advocates for the creation of a parent-training center have said it would encourage and aide parents in getting involved in their Community Education Councils and School Leadership Teams.

Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Queens) said he would support training for parents on education councils and leadership teams, but was wary of voting for a the bill if it “was going to be some very diluted, very broad based outreach effort to parents.”

“Citywide, we’re talking about an almost insignificant amount of money,” he said. “It’s hard for me to even conceive how you even get any bang for that limited amount of buck.”

The parent training center bill is one of four amendments that are part of the deal brokered last week by Democratic state senators and Mayor Bloomberg. As part of the agreement, senators promised they would vote for Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver’s school governance bill, provided that the Assembly passes these amendments. Silver’s bill preserves mayoral control of schools, while making modest changes.

Speaking on a radio program this morning, Silver said he would only guarantee that the Assembly would discuss the amendments when it returned to Albany. However, Assembly members would “be sympathetic,” to the Senate’s proposed amendments, he said.

Other amendments would create a council on the arts, would require schools to hold yearly school safety meetings with parents, and would give district superintendents more school oversight.

The Assembly members I spoke with were generally supportive of these measures, which require no funding, but did not have a sense of how popular they were with their colleagues. Bloomberg has already signed a memorandum of understanding, agreeing to implement the amendments administratively, regardless of how the Assembly votes.

Weprin questioned the necessity of signing these amendments into law.

“These things don’t seem like laws to me, they seem like things the mayor should just be doing,” he said, adding, “I guess the senators needed to save face.”

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