A midday protest on the steps of Tweed organized by Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum and City Council member Bill deBlasio drew a few dozen parents and DOE representatives David Cantor and Andy Jacob, who fielded questions but had few concrete answers to offer.
"The scale of the problem is misrepresented by the amount of noise," said Cantor, as parents of barraged him with questions. "Everything will be resolved within the next couple of days." That means a seat in a pre-K program, although not necessarily at the first-choice school, for siblings of already-enrolled students.
DeBlasio and others challenged the DOE's count of 200 families affected. "The issues this raises for parents are huge," he said, citing the thousands parents may have to pay for private pre-K, and the fact that many programs are already full for fall. Frustrated parents want to know what to tell their kids, and worry aloud about plans to centralize next year's kindergarten admissions process.
DOE reps promise that all legitimate sibling priority enrollments will be honored (though again, not necessarily at the first-choice school), and that all calls and emails to OSEPO will be returned (not what we're hearing). But the issue, while immediately pressing for hundreds of city families, has a much larger import.
"We know pre-K is an essential educational tool," says UFT president Randi Weingarten. "They've done with this what they did with high school enrollment, and with middle school enrollment -- they've taken all human judgment out of the equation. They dismiss the nature of neighborhoods, they dismiss the nature of human needs, for what a computer tells them to do. It's a computer, instead of common sense."
And for the record, even DOE staff aren't immune from the vagaries of the system: Cantor's 4-year-old will attend their local public-school kindergarten in the fall -- but, he said, "even my kid didn't get into pre-K" last year.