Georgia’s version of a parent trigger bill passed the House last night. It must now win Senate approval.
House Bill 123, the Parent and Teacher Empowerment Act, allows for petitions by parents or teachers to convert their school to a charter school or adopt another turnaround model. The bill requires the local school board approve the petition and calls on the state Board of Education to act as a referee when there are disputes between petitioners and local boards.
A petition may be submitted by a majority of the parents or a majority of the faculty and instructional staff members. The bill allows parents at any school — even a high performing one — to petition for their school to become a charter school, stating “…a petition may be submitted to convert any local school to a charter school.”
But the bill largely speaks to low performing schools. Parents at schools designated low performing can petition to:
(1) Remove school personnel, including the principal and personnel whose performance has continued not to produce student achievement gains;
(2) Institute the complete reconstitution of the school, removing all personnel, appointing a new principal, and hiring all new staff. Existing staff may reapply for employment at the newly reconstituted school but shall not be rehired if their performance regarding student achievement has been negative for the previous three years;
(3) Permit the parents to 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, if another such school exists. The local school system shall provide transportation for students in Title I schools in accordance with the requirements of federal law. The local school system may provide transportation for students in non-Title I schools. In any year in which the General Assembly does not appropriate funds for the provision of transportation to non-Title students, the parent or guardian shall assume responsibility for the transportation of that student;
(4) Employ a monitor, master, or management team in the school that shall be paid the school system.
5) Prepare and implement an intensive student achievement improvement plan; or
(6) Require a complete restructuring of the school’s governance arrangement and internal organization of the school.
The law states that the local school ” shall approve a petition” unless it finds “that implementing the turnaround model or models is logistically impossible; would be illegal under employment or other applicable law; fails to comply with the provisions of this title; does not promote school governance; violates the provisions of a local charter school’s charter or is not in the public interest. The local board may deny such petition by majority vote unless the petitioning group is composed of more than 60 percent of either parents or guardians or faculty and instructional staff members In such case, the local board may deny a petition only by a two-thirds’ or greater vote.
If a local board denies a petition, such board shall, at the time of denial, specifically state the reasons for the denial and provide a written statement of the denial to the petitioning group and the state board; provided, however, that a denial of a petition shall not preclude the petitioning group from submitting a revised petition that addresses the reasons cited for the denial in the written statement.”
One of the first responses to the House passage comes from Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, which is a proponent of parent trigger laws:
StudentsFirst and our 70,000 members in Georgia applaud the Georgia House of Representatives for passing HB 123,” said StudentsFirst’s Georgia State Director Bradford Swann Tuesday night. “This bill, the Parent and Teacher Empowerment Act, empowers parents by allowing for a majority of parents to sign a petition to transform their child’s low-achieving public school.”
“Thanks to this bipartisan effort, parents with a child stuck in a low-performing school are one step closer to having the necessary leverage to demand change and hold schools accountable for the needs of their students,” said Swann. “The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ed Lindsey, and supporters sent a strong message that every child in Georgia, regardless of their background, zip code or socio-economic circumstances deserves access to a high-quality education. These courageous members of the House of Representatives should be applauded for their efforts.”
HB 123, the Parent and Teacher Empowerment Act, passed the Georgia House of Representatives tonight with a bipartisan vote. It will now move to the Georgia Senate for further consideration.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog