In explaining the impetus for his parent trigger bill, House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, cited the need to get parents and school boards talking.
“It creates an additional avenue of communication directly from the parents to the school board, which I think is critically important.” Lindsey told a media assemblage earlier this month.
Wouldn’t coffee chats be an easier way to get parents and school boards talking?
House Bill 123 allows a majority of the parents or a majority of the faculty and instructional staff to petition for a complete overhaul of the school by converting to charter school status or another turnaround model.
The bill specifies that the parents can:
1) Remove school personnel, including the principal and personnel whose performance has continued not to produce student achievement gains;
(2) Mandate the complete reconstitution of the school.
(3) Mandate that the parents have the option to relocate their student to other public schools in the local school system to be chosen by the parents of the student from a list of available options provided by the local school system.
(4)Mandate a monitor, master, or management team in the school that shall be paid by the school system;
(5) Prepare and implement an intensive student achievement improvement plan; or (6) Mandate a complete restructuring of the school’s governance arrangement and internal organization of the school.
One of the criticisms of parent trigger laws is that while they involve parents at the start in organizing the petition drives to pull the trigger, the final outcome is most likely the conversion of the school to charter status and the hiring of an outside management firm to run the reconstituted school. (Here is a rundown of states with parent trigger laws.)
In fact, the ascendancy of for-profit education companies contributed to the defeat of a parent trigger bill in Florida last year because parent groups argued that the law would lead to corporate interests running the schools.
The law creates a process known as the Parent Trigger, which allows a majority of parents at a low-performing school to sign a petition to trigger one of a narrow set of options – firing all or some of the staff, turning the school over to a charter operator, or closing the school. These are the same options offered in the federal School Improvement Grant program, despite the fact that none has been consistently successful in improving schools nationwide. Although Parents Across America strongly supports true parent empowerment, we oppose the Parent Trigger process.
According to the AJC:
Known as the Parent and Teacher Empowerment Act, the bill would, however, give final say-so to local boards of education, something some argue could drastically limit its effectiveness. “This bill is about cutting through the bureaucracy and making local school systems perform better,” Lindsey said.
If the bill passes, Georgia would become the eighth state in the country to pass a parent trigger law. Twenty states have considered similar measures, with most facing strong opposition from teachers groups.
Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, former chair of the Senate education committee, said he’s not certain what good the trigger bill does if school boards aren’t required to do what the petitioning parents or school staff request.
“That, for me, defeats what I thought was the primary purpose, ” Millar said. “What does this do? What’s the point?”
Lindsey said local boards of education could not be forced to implement the edicts of petitions from parents or school staff under the current state constitution.But he said school boards are likely to feel quite the pressure, particularly in instances where a two-thirds majority of the board must vote to deny a petition coming from 60 percent of parents.
“That creates quite a groundswell that I think most boards would take a serious look at and try to accommodate, ” Lindsey said.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog