The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics yesterday approved the language for a proposed ballot initiative that would give parents a chance to comment on school spending before the school board submits its annual budget to the mayor and City Council for approval.

The board's approval was the first hurdle in getting the initiative on the November ballot. It now faces a 10-day period, beginning Monday, during which opponents may challenge it in court.

If there are no challenges, the group of parents backing the initiative will have until July 7 to obtain the 13,800 signatures needed to place it on the ballot.

"The primary focus of this initiative is to regularize the opportunity for parent input in the budget decision process," said George Margolies, counsel to the D.C. Board of Education.

"The board [of education] has not taken a position on this initiative," he added.

Roderick Boggs, director of the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, which represents Parents United for the District of Columbia Schools, a lobbying group that advocates more money for the city's schools, said, "Right now the mayor recommends his budget without holding public hearings."

The initiative "would require a public hearing be held by the mayor before he made his budget proposal," he said.

The City Council and Board of Education already hold public hearings on the public schools' budget, but the initiative "spells out a timetable for when the hearings would be held," Boggs said.

At yesterday's meeting, a proposal to place an initiative on the fall ballot to strengthen city rent controls also was discussed.