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Parents want say in schools

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Several Flushing parents said last week they want their voices returned to school governance, whether or not mayoral control of the schools is renewed.

At a forum hosted by state Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D−Flushing) and advocacy group Asian Americans for Equality last Thursday, parents vented their frustrations with the way Mayor Michael Bloomberg and city Schools Chancellor Joel Klein have operated the city school system over the last several years, contending too much emphasis has been placed on testing while parents have been taken out of the equation entirely.

“I don’t see parents having as much voice and as much bite as they did in the past,” said Valerie Littleton−Cohen. “It was like all of a sudden the teeth came out, and they didn’t tell us it was coming.”

The forum was held largely to bolster support for renewing mayoral control of the schools, which will expire at the end of this year unless it is renewed by the City Council and both arms of the state government.

Most parents at the forum said they did not entirely oppose renewing the system, which Bloomberg contends has shown glowing results in the form of higher attendance and improving test scores since it was enacted in 2002. Parents who spoke at the forum instead said that regardless of who controls the schools come 2010, several things need to be changed.

Parental involvement was at the core of most points made by parents, who said it has declined severely at schools in Flushing because there is a perception that parents have no power to enact change if there is a problem. Parents also clamored for less emphasis on aptitude testing, a benchmark of mayoral control, which they said takes away from general instruction and puts undue pressure on students starting at a young age.

Meng, who said she supported mayoral control of the schools in principle, conceded that the system is not without its faults.

“Mayoral control was not a perfect system when it started and it’s not a perfect system now, but as my intern wisely told me recently, progress takes time,” Meng said.

She said she plans to advocate for more transparency to the city public school system and the implementation of measures that would give parents more incentive to be involved when the issue comes up in Albany, which is expected to occur by the end of June.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at sstirling@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.

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