Putting Education Reform To The Test

Debating The Parent Trigger Online

Florida House

Rep. Mike Bileca was one of a handful of sponsors of the 'parent trigger' legislation. Parent groups opposing the bill feel they have been shut out of debate.

The New York Times is hosting a debate among national education leaders about the push for so-called “parent trigger” laws in many states.

Florida’s Senate rejected the proposal on the final day of the session, so of course Florida plays a prominent role in the discussion.

Parent triggers would allow a majority of parents at schools repeatedly failing to meet federal standards to choose one of four options to restructure the school. Those options include replacing the principal and or staff, closing the school or converting the school to a charter school.

It’s the last option that has drawn the most scrutiny, with education historian Dianne Ravitch arguing parent triggers are pushed by corporate charter school management firms for their own profit.

Public schools don’t belong to the 51 percent of the parents whose children are enrolled this year. They don’t belong to the teachers or administrators. They belong to the public. They were built with public funds. The only legitimate reason to close a neighborhood public school is under-enrollment. If a school is struggling, it needs help from district leaders, not a closure notice.

“Dropout Nation” author RiShawn Biddle argues much of the resistance to parent triggers stems from the belief that parents at low-performing schools — often among the state’s poorest schools — are dupes for charter schools and aren’t acting in their best interest.

That ignores the political reality of parent trigger support, Biddle said.

In Connecticut and Texas, the passage of parent trigger laws was led by families frustrated with failing and mediocre schools. Charter school players, more interested in starting up their own schools than taking over poor-performing existing ones, gave little support. Meanwhile the parents at Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, Calif., who are attempting to use a parent trigger law to take control of the school, are looking to run the school themselves.

Read the full discussion online.

What do you think of the arguments? Supporters say the parent trigger will be back next year. What kind of reception will it receive?


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