Posts Tagged ‘Parent Trigger’

Education Coalition Alert – Parent Trigger Bill

This alert went out in email this morning:

The Oklahoma Education Coalition is asking all Oklahoma taxpayers, school patrons, parents and educators to OPPOSE SB 1001

SB 1001 is being heard TODAY in the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Education at 10:30 a.m.


CCOSA is joining with Oklahoma’s Education Coalition to stand united against SB 1001 for the following reasons:

  • Mutual respect and collaboration between teachers, parents and districts is the key to success in our schools.  SB 1001 pits parents, teachers, principals, and school districts against each other and creates divisiveness in communities.  For example, Section 5 of SB 1001 turns the position of school principal and assistant principal into popularity contests.
  • Section 3 of SB 1001 bases a parents’ ability to trigger change on a school site’s grade on Oklahoma’s A-F grading system that OU and OSU researchers have declared “unsalvageable.” This inappropriate use of the A-F system is neither wise public policy nor good for Oklahoma’s children.
  • SB1001 transforms public school site(s) into privately operated charter school(s) circumventing local taxpayers’ and local school board members’ authority to operate their school(s).
  • The Oklahoma Education Coalition has found no organized Oklahoma parent group in support of SB 1001. The Oklahoma Education Coalition shares the concerns of Oklahoma’s various parent associations that SB 1001 is being supported by a special interest group NOT affiliated with our state.

You can access the full text of SB 1001 here.

This urgent call to action is necessary as SB 1001 has passed the Oklahoma Senate by a vote of 30 to 12.

ALL CCOSA Members are asked to:

Please call AND email:

ALL Members of the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Common Education – ask members to oppose  SB 1001.

Lee Denney (R-Cushing) (405) 557-7304
Katie Henke (R-Tulsa) (405) 557-7361
Ed Cannaday (D-Porum) (405) 557-7375
Dennis Casey (R-Morrison) (405) 557-7344
Ann Coody (R-Lawton) (405) 557-7398
Dan Fisher (R-El Reno) (405) 557-7311
Kay Floyd (D-Oklahoma City) (405) 557-7396
Marty Quinn (R-Claremore) (405) 557-7380

Thank you for helping the Oklahoma Education Coalition STOP SB 1001!



Echoing the CCOSA staff, I encourage you to contact not only the committee members, but your own specific legislators today!


March Review / April Preview

March 31, 2013 1 comment

I pretty much took Easter weekend off from blogging but made a quick appearance on Twitter tonight while working on my end-of-month post. Once again, Representative Jason Nelson (R-OKC) has taken the position that he can’t support more funding for schools until he has a number of how much is enough. Several Oklahoma educators have pointed out to Nelson that with rising enrollment, reduced funding, and a whole slate of reforms, we’re nowhere near enough. I think he gets that, but I honestly don’t have an answer. At no point have we done an honest analysis of the “true cost” of public education. If we did, we’d have to admit that it’s not the same in Tulsa as it is in Poteau or Guymon. So while he has a point, it’s a pathetic excuse for the inertia of the growing school funding crisis.

With that said, here’s a look back at the top five blog posts from March:

  1. CCOSA Call to Action – Parent Trigger – Oklahoma educators continue to have concerns about this legislation. It will pit parents against schools and even against each other. More importantly, there doesn’t seem to be any discernible push from a recognized parent group for the law. In short, it is a classic example of a solution in search of a problem. That won’t stop our legislature though, unless parents from around the state remind them that they are here to serve Oklahomans, rather than ALEC and FEE.
  2. Senate Bill 1001 – Parent Trigger – In case I didn’t mention it clearly, I’m not a fan of the Parent Trigger bill. It seems blog readers aren’t either. The top two posts this month were ones that were critical of the proposal. In this one, I also linked to an article about a Florida school where the parents wanted to fire the charter school company, which then was taking them to court. Seriouly. This is where we’re headed if we don’t stop following Jeb Bush.
  3. Two Year Delay for TLE? – Readers were also enthusiastic this month about the possibility of the SDE getting a two year reprieve from trying to figure out how to calculate value. I hope they get it. And in the meantime, I hope we can have a discussion about how to calculate votes. There has to be a better option out there.
  4. And Then There Was Roster Verification – We added to our vocabulary this month, as the state announced a plan to pilot a program to calculate the percentage of student time spent with each teacher, pretty much from day one of school. This way, we can hold Pre-K teachers accountable for the number of students who graduate 13 years later. I am told, however, that roster verification will not calculate how many days each student came to school hungry or traumatized from some event that caused an amygdala hijacking. As always with things that are tied to TLE, we should remember that the SDE staff over this program have never had to evaluate a single teacher or principal.
  5. Teachers Respond to TLE Commission and Senator Mike Mazzei’s Response to a Patron (tie) – A group of Jenks teachers wrote a spirited response to the TLE Commission early in March and got a cursory response. I am unaware if there has been any follow-up, however. There was a response given by a state senator to a patron about SB 1001, however. In it, Mazzei (R-Tulsa) made it clear that this law would never apply to suburban districts anyway. It’s really targeting the urban schools. And no, that’s not at all patronizing.

April is going to be an important month to be active. Once again, everything from funding, to ALEC/FEE based policy decisions is on the table. There will be another push for school consolidation. One thing we know is that there are hundreds of superintendents, thousands of principals, tens of thousands of teachers, and hundreds of thousands of parents in Oklahoma. If we can be a little more well-informed and a lot more vocal, maybe this will be the month it all turns around.

CCOSA Call to Action – Parent Trigger

March 11, 2013 1 comment

The state’s largest administrators group (CCOSA) issued a legislative alert today, calling for “all Oklahoma taxpayers, school patrons, parents and educators” to not only oppose SB 1001 – the Parent Trigger – but also to actively voice their concern to legislators. The CCOSA talking points include:

  • Mutual respect and collaboration between teachers, parents and districts is the key to success in our schools.  SB 1001 pits parents, teachers, principals, and school districts against each other and creates divisiveness in communities.  For example, Section 5 of SB 1001 turns the position of school principal and assistant principal into popularity contests.
  • Section 3 of SB 1001 bases a parents’ ability to trigger change on a school site’s grade on Oklahoma’s A-F grading system that OU and OSU researchers have declared “unsalvageable.” This inappropriate use of the A-F system is neither wise public policy nor good for Oklahoma’s children.
  • SB1001 transforms public school site(s) into privately operated charter school(s) circumventing local taxpayers’ and local school board members’ authority to operate their school(s).
  • The Oklahoma Education Coalition has found no organized Oklahoma parent group in support of SB 1001. The Oklahoma Education Coalition shares the concerns of Oklahoma’s various parent associations that SB 1001 is being supported by a special interest group NOT affiliated with our state.

The alert also includes contact information for Rep. Jason Nelson, the bill’s House sponsor, as well as all members of the House Common Education Committee and the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Common Education.

As I wrote Saturday, this is a solution to a problem no one seems to be having. I will be making contact, by email and phone, from my personal accounts. And on my own time. I encourage you to do the same.

Senator Mike Mazzei’s Response to a Patron

Earlier today, I commented on SB1001 – the Parent Trigger law. I neglected to include this correspondence from Sen. Mike Mazzei, posted to the Facebook page of the Teachers Need to Take Over the Legislature group:

Dear Matt,

Thank you for contacting me about SB1001. I voted in favor of this legislation because I believe it is imperative to consider any and all options for failing schools. For a school district like Union, Broken Arrow, Bixby and Jenks this will never become an issue. But for schools that chronically underperform even generous standards we must give parents who maybe can’t relocate to a different district, options to improve the school for the kids. My bottom line consideration is for students that aren’t getting the leadership, standards, and expectations needed for success in life.

There are so many examples of underperforming schools that have been radically changed by empowered teachers and parents, the KIPP schools are a notable example.

This legislation simply allows the school to become a charter school, which is still a public school within its respective school district. This is hardly a radical idea and may embolden parents to get more engaged as we have seen in some other states.

Best Regards,

Mike Mazzei
Senator Mike Mazzei
District 25

If it sounds as if Mazzei got his talking points from ALEC and FEE, there’s a reason. And if it sounds as if someone from the suburbs thinks he knows what is best for urban schools, there’s a reason for that too.

Senate Bill 1001 – Parent Trigger

The Oklahoma Senate this week voted 30-12 in favor of SB 1001 – the Parent Trigger Bill. If When this clears the House and the governor signs it into law, it will allow parents in certain circumstances to take control of the school and even demand principals lose their jobs. According to the bill’s Oklahoma author (because I refuse to pretend the bill was really written here), a school receiving a D or F grade for two straight years could be converted to a charter school if a majority of the parents agree.

The Tulsa World explains one problem with the proposed law:

Holt’s bill assumes a set of facts not in evidence – that charter schools, each an academic kingdom unto its own, always are superior to any public schools. “They are not,” points out Sen. Tom Ivester, D-Sayre. “They are statistically right in line with public schools.”

This is true. Oklahoma’s charter schools had lower grades than other state schools, overall. And this conversation doesn’t even begin to address the problem that Oklahoma’s accountability system is fatally flawed.

As written, SB 1001 will not allow parents to petition for change at an existing charter school. Think about this. If a school really belongs to the parents, why can’t they change charter operators? Or change back to a public school. For a glimpse into the road we’re heading down, let’s go to … you guessed it … Florida! When one Sarasota County school tried to fire its charter company, the company countersued. This dispute is ongoing and will be worth following.

It’s always good to be reminded that the profit/non-profit label doesn’t matter. Other than locally-elected school boards, the people who want to run your school for you are more interested in the fiscal bottom line than the students.

It’s also good to remember that parents didn’t ask for this law. In fact, parents will be holding a rally Monday at the Capitol, and one thing on the agenda is to speak against this bill. It is important to remind the party in control of our state that creating a solution to a non-existent problem is the very definition of government over-reach. If smaller government is really important to them, this isn’t it.


To be more fully informed, I recommend reading the entire bill.

February Review / March Preview

March 1, 2013 Comments off

I hoped at the end of last month’s (p)review post that February would be exciting. I wasn’t disappointed. With over 6,100 page views, it was the second-best month since this blog started last April. The A-F Report Card issues flared up again – almost to the point that I didn’t get to write about anything else. Hopefully that will change in March. There are issues with the quantitative portion of TLE, incremental steps being taken towards school vouchers (with two more private schools approved to accept LNH scholarships yesterday), and of course budgeting concerns that have just been made worse by Sequestration. Meanwhile, the parent trigger, measures to arm teachers, and instant transfer policies are all moving forward.

Here’s a look back at the top five blog posts for February:

  1. I’m Not Making This Up (But That Would Be Allowable, I Suppose) – Surprisingly, with all the writing I’ve done on the different A-F events, the top post for the month was one about science. Legislation is moving forward to allow students to opt out of any science content that they find objectionable. That’s tough to swallow. I don’t want public schools to be a place where children are told their beliefs lack significance. But it also shouldn’t be a place where they are allowed to bury their heads in the sand and ignore science. Faith and facts are not mutually exclusive. The fact that this post resonated so strongly with readers buoys my confidence in people.
  2. Misunderstanding? Hardly! – And now we’re back to form with a post about the A-F Report Cards. Superintendent Barresi told a group of parents that the OU/OSU researchers had changed their mind and now supported the system. They hadn’t. It was an inexplicable statement that for which she hasn’t been held accountable.
  3. The Silence is Broken – It took the Oklahoman almost three weeks to comment on the Washington Post article discussing the ties between Jeb Bush, his Foundation For Excellence, and the SDE. When they did, they glossed over all the important links showing how corporate influences are the real forces behind state policy. As usual, the Tulsa World was much more thorough. The frustrating thing about this is that the Oklahoman has good reporters capable of the work.
  4. These are not the Rules You’re Looking For – Last week, after a legislative committee voted to throw out the existing rules for A-F Report Cards, the SDE quickly issued rules that change precious little. They seem to have been hastily constructed and create more problems than they solve. I have a hard time believing that these are the rules that will be in place for next year.
  5. Get Serious, People – Much of February saw the legislature wasting time on issues that have nothing to do with helping kids or helping schools. They want to keep students from being bullied, but they don’t want to protect everybody. They also want to make sure a teacher can paddle children, even if the principal or school board do not allow it. What could be more important than that?

My sincere hope for March is that we will see the conversation turn more serious and constrictive. In lieu of that, I’ll surely be here, filling this space.

The Silence is Broken

February 17, 2013 5 comments

Nearly three weeks after the Washington Post wrote about the web between Jeb Bush, his Foundation for Education Excellence, Chiefs for Change, and the development of education policy in several states – including Oklahoma – the Oklahoman has finally written about it. This article in the news section discusses the influence of conservative groups – like ALEC – on Oklahoma legislation, with strong denials from state leaders that our laws are being written out of state. The editorial page covered the education controversy more specifically in a post titled, “School change driven by policy; not conspiracies.”

Normally when I link to an editorial, I don’t include the title. This one amused me. The story has been out there for three weeks. The Tulsa World has covered it. I’ve written about it four times, beginning on January 31 with this post. For all the insistence that policy decisions are being made at the local level, the evidence to the contrary is too great to ignore. Officials from out-of-state groups are not only writing the majority of Oklahoma’s education laws; they are also writing the administrative rules for implementing those laws.

The major problem with this is that it all boils down to what happens in Florida. And no matter how much we hear that the Sunshine State is the model for all things great about education reform, the results just don’t back up the rhetoric.

In a desperate ploy to prove – something, I’m not quite sure what – the editorial (again, it’s worth mentioning that Superintendent Barresi’s campaign manager’s husband writes for the editorial staff) tried to compare these entanglements with a scandal involving a former Skiatook superintendent. He’s in jail, so maybe there is something to that. In the end, the paper is critical of the fact that some “gullible souls actually buy into this twaddle.”

(Yes, they called concerns about where Oklahoma policy comes from twaddle. I’m glad the editorial ended there. I think we were headed towards describing something as ballyhooed or interjecting a consarnit  if it had continued.)

The problem is not just education, you know. If you’d like to see a list of all legislators on ALEC’s task force, go here. Oklahomans listed include:

  • Rep. Jabar Shumate (OK D-73), Alternate
  • Rep. Ann Coody (OK R-64), Member
  • Rep. Lee R. Denney (OK R-33), Member
  • Sen. John W. Ford (OK R-29), State Chairman and Education Task Force Member
  • Rep. Sally R. Kern (OK R-84), Alternate
  • Sen. Jim Reynolds (OK R-43), Alternate

It should also be mentioned that the Oklahoman’s article today (not the editorial) offers a defense of the parent trigger law and the film Won’t Back Down. Keep in mind that the newspaper’s parent company put up the money for this film – one of the worst-rated films on both IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes.

Your takeaway from this entire hubbub should be to understand that all of the reforms taking place in Oklahoma schools were not conceived by a single Oklahoman. Among all of our policy makers, there are no new ideas. Our legislators – even our governor and state superintendent – are but a farm team for the national organization. In their attempt to move up from AA to AAA and maybe someday even the show, they’ll do anything to please the national and corporate masters.

To answer the question I asked 17 days ago, that’s where education policy comes from.

National School Choice Week

January 28, 2013 Comments off

Prepare to see the PR machines in overdrive. School Choice Week is being celebrated around the country as state legislatures prepare to begin their annual work. In Oklahoma, this means 600 bills that relate to education in some way or another. I would try to provide a digest of them, but I try to keep my blog between 500 and 800 words. Most of these bills are likely to be consolidated or fall to the side completely.

The mythology of school choice goes something like this: students are too often trapped in struggling schools with no alternatives. If the state would only make their money portable, then any private school in the state would take those kids. Short of that, we can just reinvent public schools as charters. Or pull the parent trigger and make schools charters. Or allow any student who feels unsafe to transfer to any other school.

Last year, Superintendent Barresi issued a press release to mark this momentous occasion. In part, it read:

I am a huge advocate of a parent’s right to choose the education that best suits the needs of their children,” Barresi said. “In a free country, with so many exceptional school offerings, there is no reason a child’s education should be bound by his parent’s income level or his geographical location.

This is all empty rhetoric. For school choice to be the great equalizer, you have to have some guarantee that the school you choose would choose you back. Private schools don’t have to. Charter schools technically do, but as I’ve mentioned before, they can insert codicils into their policies that make it extremely difficult for special needs students or children needing remediation to attend. While Oklahoma charter schools still tend to be locally-sprung entities, there are national charter school chains making huge profits.

Nor are the results from private schools and charter schools comparable with those from public schools. In fact, with the private schools, there are no results. They don’t take the same tests. In our data-driven school climates, you would think there might be a push to find out if the potential recipients of vouchers are worth the cash. And charter schools actually did worse overall than the state on the A-F Report Cards.

If we pass a full-on voucher law, does that mean Casady and Holland Hall are just going to change their standards and let anybody in? Does it mean they’re going to expand to offer programs to twice as many students? Of course not. We don’t have private schools – elite or otherwise – in all parts of the state either. Vouchers would be a good boost for families already choosing private schools. In some locations, they would also be a small boost in revenue for schools trying to stay in business. They will not, however, increase equity in public education.

Readers of this blog tend to be independent thinkers. As you hear the various talking points this week, try to find the subtext. Whom will this proposal benefit? What part of the narrative is self-serving or incomplete?

The good news is that I’ll have blog material all week long.

Policy Disconnect

January 16, 2013 Comments off

It goes without saying that Oklahoma’s elected officials don’t see eye-to-eye with school leaders on matters of education policy. I’m saying it anyway.

This morning, Todd Garrison tweeted a picture of CCOSA’s legislative goals from the organization’s legislative conference in Oklahoma City. They include full funding of the major reform initiatives underway in this state, better implementation of the A-F Report Cards, streamlining the testing sequence, better salaries for school employees, and more local control.

Several Oklahoma administrators that I follow on Twitter also kept something of a live blog of the conference, with updates and commentary. (If you’re on Twitter, and you haven’t bookmarked #oklaed, you should. I’m trying to get better about using it when I write or link to content. It’s a way to organize the conversation for those of us trying to preserve public education.)

Unfortunately for those of us working in the profession, the legislative agenda is likely to include nothing from CCOSA’s wish list. Instead, it will focus on arming teachers, giving parents a trigger to create charter schools, and expanding the availability of vouchers from to more students.

The SDE is asking for more money, in spite of the fact that Barresi has spent the last 25 months saying her reforms could be implemented within existing resources. The money they want is targeted for programs that schools didn’t ask for and that remove control from locally-elected school boards. Nothing in the proposed budget attends to the years of funding that has been lost by legislative inaction. The paltry sums designated for reading remediation and professional development are nothing compared to the millions to be spent on testing and development of VAM.

This year, more than ever, it is critical for educators and anyone else who cares about Oklahoma continuing to have a great system of public education to be vocal. The legislature and governor need to know what is important to us. Fund what works. Fund what’s required. Quit making new policies that will break the system and listen to parents and school board members.

CCOSA has the right priorities. It’s up to the rest of us to be loud enough that our politicians can’t ignore us.

Wrong on the Parent Trigger Again

October 13, 2012 Comments off

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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