Parents are understandably frustrated with low test scores, low graduation rates and a persistent achievement gap. Many
are demanding change and believe the delusion that charter schools will solve all these problems
. One of the latest Ed Deform tactics is called the Parent Trigger
It works like this: if a school has been in program improvement for
four or more years, and has at least 51% parental support, parents can
force the school to become a charter or shut it down.
The Parent Trigger has been allowed in California for the past year. Many other states are in the process of
enacting similar provisions. It has been touted as an example of parent
power. In reality, it is lynch mob power serving the interests of education profiteers
Like the Tea Party movement, which is portrayed as a grassroots movement of angry citizens who want to take
back government, the Parent Revolution
movement looks like angry parents who just want to take back control of
their dysfunctional schools. Also like the Tea Party movement, which
has heavy corporate backing, the Parent Revolution movement does, too,
especially by for-profit charter schools and EMOs like Green Dot.
We tend to give a lot of lip service to democracy in our country, but reduce the concept to the simplistic idea
of majority rule. If the majority wants it, they feel entitled to it,
even if others’ rights are suppressed in the process. If the majority
believes it, then it must be true, even when it’s not. The majority of
Europeans once believed the Earth was the center of the universe and
they created their own lynch mobs to persecute and kill scientists who
claimed otherwise. The majority of Southern whites tolerated or even
approved of Jim Crow, with very real lynch mobs to support it.
Even if a school truly needs help (remember that virtually all California schools will be in Program Improvement by 2015
, even the good ones, due to the Enron accounting tactics of NCLB),
throwing out the baby with the bathwater by closing schools and giving
it all away to for-profit education management organizations won’t solve
these problems. This line of reasoning (if you can even call it
reasoning) presumes that anything is better than the status quo. Ample
research shows that most charter schools perform the same as or worse than traditional ...
They also tend to be more segregated, spend less on curriculum and
supplies, and they have higher teacher turnover due to low pay and
stressful working conditions. Ironically, charter schools also tend to
be autocratic and squeeze out community oversight and participation,
thus reducing parental power.
Another problem with the Parent Trigger is that it presumes that parents know better than the professionals. Can
you imagine if patients could force a medical clinic to shut down, fire
its entire staff, and sell out to a private firm because it operates in a
low income community where mortality rates tend to be higher
than in more affluent communities? A better way to empower parents
would be to have the 51% petition for a change that includes the
collaboration of existing teachers and staff, and that does not
necessarily lead to privatization.