Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Waiting lists for public school kindergartens, in NYC and in England

If being on a college's waiting list is nerve wracking, having your child on a public kindergarten waitlist is positively infuriating: Kindergarten Waiting Lists Put Manhattan Parents on Edge

"The Department of Education would not say how many schools had waiting lists or how many children were on them, explaining that officials were still reviewing the information that principals in Manhattan were required to submit earlier this week (principals in other boroughs must do so by Friday). But parent advocates and public officials in pockets throughout the city said in interviews that they had heard more complaints this year than ever from panicked parents who were told that there may not be seats for their 5-year-olds at their neighborhood schools.
The notion of a waiting list for students living within a school’s zone is not unprecedented in New York; last fall, 34 schools outside Manhattan capped their enrollment, turning away neighborhood children. But this year, after a change in city policy to standardize kindergarten admissions and encourage registration earlier in the year, the waiting lists seem to have proliferated, making their way into Manhattan neighborhoods where parents often make expensive real estate decisions with a specific school in mind.
David Cantor, the chancellor’s press secretary, said that schools previously had grappled with supply and demand in an ad-hoc way, and that the Bloomberg administration’s approach was more fair. Children who are still on waiting lists at the end of June will be offered slots at other schools in their district (there are 32 across the city), and parents can keep their children’s names on the lists through the summer in hopes that spots open up. City officials expect lists to shrink as some students choose gifted and talented programs, whose placements are to be completed in mid-June, or other options.
Before, Mr. Cantor said, “students remained on wait lists without a school unless a parent knew how to navigate the system.”
“This administration’s position is that equity of access and transparency for every parent is essential,” he added. “This year, for the first time, we stepped in to quantify wait lists, assist schools in managing their wait lists, and will ensure that children have a placement offer by the end of June.”

Something similar is happening in England. The Telegraph reports Thousands of children face being denied a place at their local primary school this year following a sharp rise in demand caused by the recession and increased birth rates:
"Competition is so intense that many families will have to accept their second, third or even fourth choice school, possibly several miles from home. Some four and five year-olds could be left without any place for September. Almost a third of councils across England surveyed by The Daily Telegraph were struggling to cope with demand, with many forced to create more places by building temporary classrooms.
The problem has been blamed on rising birth rates coupled with the economic downturn, which has forced some parents to abandon fee-paying schools for state education."
"In Bristol, about 300 children were left without a place at any of their preferred primary schools when the first round of offers was made in February, although most have now been found a school."

1 comment:

bhc3 said...

Same thing happens every year in San Francisco. Parents have to select their top 7 schools, and then go through a lottery to see which one they get. And a number of parents end up going 0/7, particularly because everyone wants the best schools near their homes.

There's an 1,128-comment thread about this on SF K Files, a blog many San Francisco parents read: