Following complaints from parents about this year’s council elections, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is calling on the city to postpone the elections for a second time.
Calling the process “badly flawed,” Stringer said that a series of mistakes made by the Department of Education’s Office of Family Information and Action had undermined parents’ confidence in the elections for members of the Community Education Councils. In a letter sent to Chancellor Dennis Walcott, Stringer asked that the city redo the elections.
Walcott responded that the elections would take place, as planned, on May 7.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of parent involvement in our schools and the Office for Family Information and Action will take all necessary steps to ensure that all of our parents have an opportunity to cast a vote in the CEC elections by May 7th,” the chancellor said in a statement.
Though the parent councils are largely powerless — their only real function is to re-draw school zone lines — the election snafus have angered parents who see the councils as one of the few ways they can voice their opinions on school policy.
OFIA first pushed back the elections when it extended the deadline for candidates to apply after 500 parents volunteered themselves for 325 positions. More complaints followed when the city posted inaccurate information about who was eligible to run for the councils on the election website. In the last few days, the city has faced even more criticism after it posted the list of candidates online but made the information password-protected, excluding some parents who didn’t have passwords.
After the New York Post wrote about the lack of public access to the candidate lists, the city said it would make the lists public today.
In his letter to Walcott, Stringer wrote:
These incidents, which I am hearing are not isolated, may stem from disorganization. But they are also feeding troubling speculation that OFIA is intent on removing candidates whose independent voices may not be closely aligned with DOE views.
In March, OFIA landed in trouble when it was revealed that department employees had been trying to mobilize parents to attend public meetings and to sign petitions in support of city political goals.