Friday, April 6, 2012

Educator Musing: State Senator Gloria Romero Addresses School Board - Parent Trigger Law Petition

Educator Musing: State Senator Gloria Romero Addresses School Board - Parent Trigger Law Petition:

Parent Empowerment

Parent empowerment is a good idea.  Our public school system was founded on local control - the original old G of parent empowerment.  The concept of a public school system was centered on community-based run education.  The system allowed for local people to be elected by the community to be trustees of their school district.  It evolved to allow parent involvement as volunteers, members of the school site councils, members of district committees, PTA, Boosters, and members of interview panels for teachers, principals, and superintendents.  

Unfortunately, the public school system is no longer centered on community-based run education.  Local control has been drained from public schools.  What we now have is only a facade of local control.  Education is now being run by politicians in state capitols and from Washington D.C.. The politicians, in turn, are influenced by the deep pocket affluence of nonprofit and for-profit organizations pushing their agenda on education.  

No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top grants are federal laws that are pushing states to adopt laws and policies that have been narrowing the curriculum and forcing our schools to be test prep institutions at the expense of science, social studies, and the arts.  The "essential standards" taught now are only the ones that appear on state tests.  Fear of punishment by the state and federal government agencies is forcing all other subjects out of the curriculum.   Even U.S. Education Secretary Duncan has conceded this point.

Every dollar received in grants by schools from the state and federal government have strings attached to them that specifically directs how they should be spent.  They are called restricted funds - restricted because they can only be spent to satisfy a particular state or federal policy.  Local school districts only have real say on unrestricted funds that are almost all for employee salaries and benefits.  It is sad that local control now means that districts can cut the salaries and benefits of employees during the tough times, but have little say on how to spend other monies for education.

The California parent trigger law doesn't empower parents to fix any of these problems.  The parent trigger law is limited to imposing Race To The Top policies on local school districts.  The parent trigger law is a vehicle to obligate school districts to enforce one out of five Race To The Top intervention models on a failing school.  A real parent empowerment law would give parents the power to provide their school districts relief from onerous policies limiting our ability to provide a complete and better quality education for students. 

Charter schools, for example, are considered to be superior to traditional public schools because they are free from regulations and policies that hamper traditional public schools.  Well, then why not just provide similar freedom to school districts without the involvement of outside nonprofit or for-profit charter school organizations?

Aside from that thought, some parent empowerment is better than none.  The California parent trigger law allows for a petition of parent signatures representing 50% plus one of a failing school population to impose one of five Race To The Top intervention models on that school.

The intervention models are as followed:
1. Transformation - Replace the principal.
2. Turnaround - Replace the principal and 50% of all staff.
3. Restart - Convert the school into a charter.
4. Closure - Close the school.
5. Alternative Governance - Any other major restructuring of the school's governance.

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