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Know Your Rights
Source: The New York Times
Subject: Education Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Parents Disrupt Panel to Attack School Changes

Shouting “respect the parents” and “put the ‘public’ back in public education,” about 100 demonstrators (including members of Make the Road by Walking) disrupted a meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy last evening and denounced the Bloomberg administration’s plans for further restructuring of the school system.

The protesters drowned out part of a presentation on a proposed citywide science curriculum and briefly delayed a presentation about a new school budget system that the administration plans to adopt for the next school year.

The group, standing at the back of a meeting room in the Education Department headquarters, repeatedly shouted down Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein.

T. Thaddaeus Brown, a parent advocate from East New York, Brooklyn, repeatedly asked Mr. Klein to reverse the meeting agenda to let parents speak first.

“You are denying other people the right to speak,” Mr. Klein said. He refused to change the agenda, but allowed group members to lead the public comment part of the meeting.

One parent, Zakiyah Ansari, who has five children in the school system, urged Mr. Klein not to eliminate the city’s 10 instructional regions. “Stop the reorganization and take the time to listen to us,” she said.

After the meeting, the chancellor said he appreciated the parents’ thoughts but did not appreciate the disruptions.

“This is New York; we’ve got millions of parents,” Mr. Klein said. “We welcome when they come out and express their views. It’s unfortunate when they disrupt proceedings.”

Parent anger has risen sharply in recent weeks, particularly over midyear changes in school bus routes, which took effect in January. The administration has tried to respond, most notably by the hiring late last month of a chief family engagement officer, Martine G. Guerrier, 36. Ms. Guerrier, who was not at last night’s meeting, is supposed to help improve communication with parents, but protests have continued.

The Panel for Educational Policy is the name Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg gave to the Board of Education after he won control of the school system in 2002.

Robert Gordon, who is in charge of the new budget system, briefly quieted the crowd by explaining how two similar schools get very different levels of financing, and calling the current system unfair.