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Parents would get a seat on Bill Thompson's proposed PEP

A day after his rival Bill de Blasio scooped up another endorsement from parents, mayoral candidate Bill Thompson is promising to give a specially elected parent a seat at the decision-making table.

According to a parent engagement plan released today by Thompson’s campaign, Thompson would reserve one of his appointed seats on the Panel for Educational Policy to a parent who gets voted in by a diverse group of other parents.

Rather than appointing his own voting member, Thompson would select whichever parent is picked by parent leaders culled from each of the 32 Community Education Councils. The CECs are diminished holdovers from when districts were controlled by school boards.

Thompson’s campaign staff said the proposal is an example of how Thompson would cede some of the mayor’s control over the Panel for Educational Policy, a power that Mayor Bloomberg has used to aggressively — and contentiously — push through sweeping changes to the school system. In 12 years in office, a Department of Education proposal has never been rejected by the PEP, which consists of eight mayoral appointees and five members appointed by borough presidents.

Under this proposal, the elected parent would remain an appointee of the mayor. That means that Thompson could technically remove the panel member at any time, a privilege that Bloomberg once exercised with cunning precision when he fired three of his appointees in 2004 for opposing his proposed ban on social promotion.

It’s unclear if Thompson is willing to actually give up any of the eight seats that are appointed by the mayor, a change that would require an amendment to state law. When he ran for mayor in 2009, he proposed a plan in which he would pick from a slate of diverse candidates selected by a 19-member nominating committee.

Still, it’s a significant departure from the way that the Bloomberg administration has handled the PEP. And a diverse set of parents make up CECs from around the city, and their educational interests have often been at odds with the city’s approach to policies.

At a teachers union mayoral forum in May, Thompson said he should have to convince a majority of panel members to vote for his ideas.

“If it’s sound educational policy and I can’t convince one other person to join us, then something’s wrong,” Thompson said.

The teachers union, which has endorsed Thompson, has its own proposal that would fully strip the mayor of his seat majority on the PEP.

Thompson released the parent engagement plan a day after Public Advocate Bill de Blasio picked up an endorsement from a parent advocacy group called the NYC Kids PAC, which opposes much of the Bloomberg administration’s brand of education reform. It’s the second major parent group to endorse de BLasio.

“He seemed to have more of a grasp right from the start about the types of issues that parents had with engagement and the PEP,” said Tesa Wilson, president of the CEC in District 14 and a member of NYC Kids PAC. “So we thought de Blasio was a good fit.”

Here is Thompson’s complete parent engagement proposal:

Parents Plan to Bring Parents to the Table• Give Parents A Voice in Education Policy• Quarterly Parent Meetings with the Mayor• Launch New Partnering with Parents Program• Provide Childcare Options to Working Families• Protect Children from Cyberbullying

Give Parents a Voice in Education Policy. Thompson will appoint a parent representative to the Panel for Education Policy to be selected by Community Education Council parent leaders. Each of the 32 CEC’s have parent reps; each CEC will choose one parent to represent the vote for their district; the CEC parent reps will then vote on one person to sit on the panel. This helps ensure that parents will lead the selection process. In the event that there is a tie, the Mayor will cast the deciding vote.

Launch New “Partnering with Parents” Program. Bill Thompson will utilize public and private support to reduce educational costs and expand learning opportunities for low-income single parents. The initiative will leverage the network of world-class community colleges and universities across the CUNY system to give struggling single parents opportunities for degrees and certificate programs.

Meetings with the Mayor. To ensure that parents have a voice in the school support process, Thompson will host quarterly meetings with parents from the Mayors’ Support Schools – underperforming schools – to provide direct access and accountability to the school improvement process. This is to help inform parents of students in schools in jeopardy of closing so that Mayor can directly inform parents on issues/progress.

Provide More Childcare Options to Working Families. Thompson will increase childcare tax-credits to families that pay for childcare. In addition to the child care credit allowed under the Internal Revenue Code, more New York City parents will be able to receive State and City tax credits for their child care expenditures. It is estimated that parents spend thousands of dollars on childcare yearly, over $14,000 on infant care, costs that are especially hard even for middle-income parents. New York is ranked as the least affordable state for center-based care of a 4-year-old in 2011. As referenced by several studies, parents with adequate childcare stay at their jobs longer, have fewer absences and are more productive, resulting in savings to employers.

Protect Children from Cyberbullying. A 2010 study produced by the Cyberbullying Research Center highlighted that cyberbullying victims are twice as likely to have attempted suicide compared to those who have not experienced cyberbullying. Thompson will protect the health of our children by expanding cyberbullying prevention programs in schools and creating an awareness campaign to assist parents, specifically non-English speaking parents, to better monitor online activity.

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