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Wrong on the Parent Trigger Again

October 13, 2012

The Oklahoman does a limited editorial page on Saturdays, digesting several issues into a quick paragraph or two apiece. This one, discussing the Parent Trigger law that will be proposed in the legislature in 2013, is worth noting:

State Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, plans to author a “parent trigger” law in Oklahoma. Under that plan, if 51 percent of local parents sign a petition to intervene in a chronically low-performing school, they could replace staff or convert the school to a charter school. There are pros and cons to the proposal, but one attack trotted out by opponents doesn’t hold water. Melissa Abdo, a parent coordinator with the Tulsa Area Parent Legislative Action Committee, argues that school boards are elected by all local citizens and the trigger law would give outsized influence to just a handful. In reality, turnout for school board elections is often abysmal. That’s not necessarily the fault of the schools, but a petition with 51 percent participation would dramatically exceed turnout for most school board elections and send a clear message from voters.

If for no other reason, it’s worth noting because one of my earliest blog followers gets mentioned, and then criticized in a sea of flawed logic. The argument suggests that schools only belong to the current occupants of the classrooms – that last year’s students and next year’s students have no stake. The population that votes in school elections is different than the population that would vote on the Parent Trigger. For 51% of a single school’s parents to be allowed to override the decisions of the entire electorate (at least the part that’s engaged) just doesn’t make sense.

The essence of the Parent Trigger is that parents would have the right to extract a school from a district and sell it to a charter school operator. Politically, reformers score points by standing up to the Education Establishment. By ingratiating themselves to the corporate takeover of public schools, they enhance a system that increasingly places shareholders over children. Parents pulling the trigger would not in fact control the school – they would be ceding control to a third party, and likely one that operates from out-of-state.

I wrote about the Parent Trigger issue last month, and lined out eight reasons why this is one of the worst reform measures yet. The Oklahoman continues to put forth the dichotomy that parents are good and professional educators are bad. I prefer the thought that both are good. In most schools, they work together to improve schools and overcome obstacles. The predilection of the paper, Senator Holt, and Superintendent Barresi to pit these groups against each other is quite self-serving.

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