School is back in session. Election Day arrived. And yesterday, Mayor De Blasio’s Department of Education announced a new enrollment proposal for pre-k and kindergarten admissions in Community School District 1.

The results are now in: the Mayor’s “plan” has not earned this Council’s vote.

Over many years, the parent leaders of District 1 have done our homework:

  • We sounded the alarm about school segregation before it became fashionable for political candidates to have a “diversity plan.”

  • We searched for communities that have tackled segregation, and we found the leading expert in the field.

  • We secured a federally-funded, NY state grant to introduce an evidence-based, enrollment model called “controlled choice.”

  • And with the help of our D1 Mom Squad, we spread the word and earned the community’s support.

By contrast, today the Department of Education:

  • Proposes a new policy not backed by available research,

  • Plans to spend federally-funded state money on this new policy, knowing that it cannot achieve our shared integration goals, and

  • Measures success according to the loose criteria from the Mayor’s “diversity plan,” widely described by NYC education reporters as… “not a plan.”

Today and in the past, we have called out District and DOE leadership for their secrecy and delay tactics that have harmed the prospects for integration and equity in our schools.

At the same time, we also acknowledge that DOE has heard some of our concerns. The DOE’s new proposal contains fairness principles that any good plan should have. The proposal:

  • Applies to the entire school district and not just a few schools,

  • Applies to both pre-K and kindergarten enrollment policies, and

  • Proposes that each school’s population should reflect the local community with regards to a student’s family income, language, and housing status.

But despite these improvements, the DOE’s plan is not one that our students deserve. And it is not one that our families have asked for.

Our fight for equity and against segregation is a campaign, not a grant program. We, the parent leaders of the Community Education Council will continue to advocate for our community, regardless of how this DOE policy plays out. And we will continue to hold the District accountable for their actions.

About the DOE Proposal, and our many questions:

The DOE today released its Diversity in Admissions proposal for priority choice enrollment at our schools and for a new family resource center. The proposal may sound like the controlled choice plan developed by leading experts and endorsed by the District 1 Community Education Council. But it is not that plan, and it does not benefit from decades of research and data.

Under the DOE proposal, students who qualify for free or reduced lunch, English language learners, and students in temporary housing will receive priority admission to their school of choice. The aspiration is for every school’s population to reflect the community at large, where 2 out of 3 students in District 1 have been identified to meet one or more of these priority criteria.

Should the DOE proposal continue? We have lots of questions, and we welcome yours as well.

  • Will the new Family Resource Center include on-site enrollment with transparency for families to see the chances of getting into their top-choice schools, and for schools to monitor outreach and integration progress?

  • How will the DOE give priority to students with disabilities when considering equity in our schools?

  • Will this plan change the fact that students in temporary housing are concentrated in just a few schools?

  • Given that the DOE proposal relies solely on free/reduced lunch status as the primary priority indicator, how will the Department maintain data quality under the Mayor’s new policy, which we support, for universal free lunch?

  • To assure fairness, how will the DOE protect against gaming the system when families fill out their applications?

  • We have been advocating that the goal should be that all schools reflect the demographics of the community, within +/- 5% of key indicators. Why does DOE feel that a wider range of +/- 10% for a basket of indicators is good enough to achieve equity? Why is lowering the bar of success better than honestly addressing shortfalls?

  • Will there be a new enrollment form for pre-k and kindergarten that makes it possible for DOE to identify priority students? Given that student needs are not identified until kindergarten, will DOE rely on self-reporting language, income, housing, or disability status? Or will this all be guesswork?

  • Will DOE measure success based on the November 1 enrollment data after students actually enroll? Or will it be based on the less accurate application data from September, like the current set-asides?

  • How specifically will DOE provide transparency on district-wide and school-level data for the public to monitor progress?

But perhaps our biggest question is: why did the DOE and the Mayor ignore the grassroots effort to research and propose an evidence-based plan, in favor of something brand new and untested?

Stay tuned for more updates. And please forward this email to other parents and friends. Ask them to sign up for the Community Education Council District 1 list serve: