I thought I’d take you through the newest school reform industry experiment on public schools they don’t use in places they don’t live. This latest quick-fix, miracle gimmick is branded The Parent Trigger and it comes with a movie, although not action figures or a Happy Meal toy.
Media who blindly climbed aboard this train wreck are now having second thoughts. I’ll allow them to explain why they shouldn’t have backed Parent Trigger like star-struck morons:
From the start, the most serious problem with California’s promising but sloppily written “parent trigger” law has been its failure to require an open, public process. That’s especially troubling when the law’s power is considered closely. If half or more of parents at an underperforming public school sign a petition, they can force dramatic change in how the school is run — they can turn it into a charter school, for example, or require that the principal or the entire faculty be fired.
But that means these documents aren’t so much petitions as they are votes. Through majority rule, parents don’t request reform; they require a governmental agency — the school district — to take action.
Yet these petition drives differ from most elections. There is no public balloting place and no mechanism to ensure that all of those eligible to “vote” — i.e., the parents of the school’s students — are notified. No public forums or debates are held to guarantee that parents hear both sides of the issue. This process does a disservice to parents, some of whom miss out on opportunities to become more informed about their options — or in some cases even to know that a petition drive is underway — before nearly irreversible decisions have been made. Yet neither the Legislature nor the state Board of Education has moved to fix these problems.
The most recent trigger petition, at Weigand Avenue Elementary School in Watts, makes the need for revamping the law more obvious than ever. A petition requiring the removal of the principal, Irma Cobian, was signed by 53% of the parents. According to organizers, the parents didn’t want a charter school and wanted to keep all the teachers. But they apparently weren’t aware that many of those teachers thought highly of Cobian. After the petition was accepted by the district, 21 of the school’s 22 teachers indicated in writing that they would seek to transfer from Weigand, and some parents expressed regret over signing the petition.
It’s like…VOTING. Oh, well. Too late. No one could have predicted, mistakes were made, and Parent Trigger lobbyists weren’t greeted as liberators, after all. Except, the trigger process has been a divisive disaster twice before:
Influential groups like Parent Revolution and StudentsFirst have been lobbying for the cause and searching for parents to test out the fledgling laws. The legislation’s supporters are eager to use “Won’t Back Down,” which is financed by conservative billionaire Philip Anschutz’s Walden Media, to popularize the parent-trigger policy.
Parent Revolution, supported by the Gates, Walton Family and Wasserman foundations, on Friday announced plans to host “Won’t Back Down” screenings with panel-led discussions in 19 states over the next four weeks. But in both Compton and Adelanto, the process has proved divisive.
Parents on both sides have accused each other of intimidation and harassment and called police on one another. PTA meetings have erupted into shouting matches, and kids have been bullied for wearing pro- or anti-trigger law shirts to school.
Desert Trails PTA Vice President Lori Yuan, whose 7- and 9-year-olds attend the school, won’t be lining up to see “Won’t Back Down.” Yuan, 39, is among the faction of parents actively opposing the trigger effort. “Why do the people that attend Desert Trails today get to determine a future when there’s a whole community that technically owns the school?” Yuan said. “This is not a grassroots movement.”
Her public school is now privatized. Fifty unelected parents out of 600 chose the charter chain. I want to go deeper than the people who stupidly and recklessly swallowed this thing whole and now regret it. I want to look at this experiment on small “d” democracy grounds. I’m getting involved on the campaign end of a local initiative to build a new public school here. It’s been debated for two years. We initially asked for millions of dollars from the community, but we lost on a ballot question so we came back with a smaller, cheaper proposal. I don’t know how many at the meeting(s) were currently parents of public school children but it doesn’t matter, because the public schools here are a community asset so obviously the whole community gets a vote on large decisions. I was talking about this Parent Trigger thing with my husband and I asked him what he thought would happen in this district if a bare majority of parents with children currently attending the local public school voted to radically change our public school with no broader community input at all. He said he could not imagine doing that, but if we did, there would be “actual civil unrest.” Having attended several meetings on the school building plan here, I agree with him.
We have a public senior center here. It’s county-owned. Say I’m a disgruntled senior and I don’t much like how the center is run. Can I pass a law that codifies a process that cuts out future users of the center and the broader public who built it and fund it? What about the public library? A public transit system? If you’re ON THIS BUS RIGHT NOW, raise your hand if you want to fire the driver! Does “public” mean more than “publicly-funded”? Can we ask the reform industry and the politicians they bought to define what “public” means to them?
1. A missed profit opportunity.
3. Death panels
But then yoose said:
The math does not compute. Or was this not intended to be a factual statement?
Oh man this is terrible. CA should have learned its lesson with our ballot referendum system, but it looks like we’re going to have to keep making the same mistakes.
I have a strong suspicion that these petitions are presented to parents as “sign this to improve our school’s teaching and learning things!”, to which pretty much every (uninformed) parent would ignorantly but well-intentioned sign. I highly doubt they’re presented as “sign here to completely and irreversbily change this school into a charter, yo!”
Aso, too, principals can get fired by parents, almost certainly those parents of students who get the C’s and D’s? (Remember, nobody’s child is academically poor….it’s ALWYAYS the teacher’s/principal’s fault!).
If that’s not a driver for grade inflation and Nobody Fails Ever policies, I dont know what is.
Sure, we can ask. They’ll answer with some pablum. They won’t give you the truth, which is that “public” means whoever buys them off.
I wonder how many teachers would, if given the chance, vote to fire the parents of their students who are unprepared, unsupported, and generally not ready for school because their family life is their biggest problem?
They had a majority on the petition, but you had to sign the petition to make the decision on the charter chain. Charter chain decision is second step, post-petition (and a lawsuit) .
53 were still involved at that point. It seems the rest were no longer speaking to one another.
In one case, they actually gave parents two petitions. One was to privatize, the other was more investment in the school, like that. They only submitted the charter petition.
So, yeah, I’d say it’s deceptive, which is why we shouldn’t be having deregulated “elections”.
peach flavored shampoo
@Face: This. Giving parents the ability to determine the job status of the principal and teachers means kids likely arent getting Ds, certainly not Fs, nobody is being held back, and Parent-Teacher conferences must be so one-sided as to be worthless.
What teacher is going to be brutally honest about a student if they know the recievers of such info may turn around and file a petitiion to get them fired?
I think if I walked into my local public library they’d break my legs and shake me upside-down for overdue library fees. I had a friend who was on her way to the library agree to drop off my books, too. Two months later, she got back from vacation and my books–not hers, just mine–were sitting in the front seat of her car. I waited for the outdoor dropbox to open, dropped off the books, and never went back. They’ve applied a $5 cap to late fees now but the wording of the letter they sent me mentioned nothing about the ruling being retroactive. They want their blood money and they won’t get it. I’m fast enough to read what I want at the bookstore before being chased out with a broom by an angry manager.
And I work for this town’s public schools. They can find me anytime they want. Shoot, the librarians who work in the school and the town libraries joke with me about the late fees because they know that’s why I haven’t been back in two years.
peach flavored shampoo
This made for a great Seinfeld episode.
thank you Kay for alerting us to the latest scam
This looks like a classic case of ‘conservatives’ winning at a local level because they can turn out the fanatics,the crazies and the militantly ignorant short-termists – while good, sane liberals turn over in bed, punch their pillows and tell themselves that it can’t happen here and that they have other things to do and yes, the khaleesi is hot and Tunch needs moar tuna damnit. This is a rerun of an old, sad story of how we don’t organize first and get the jump on the crazies at the local level. It’s going to keep happening until we learn that lesson and start fighting smart and early.
I think it’s a really important point. I represent juveniles, so I hear from their parents. I often hear complaints about the local public school, and I’m open to the idea that the kid is being treated unfairly, but for goodness sakes. I don’t just BUY it, knee jerk. A lot of these kids are doing poorly, or I wouldn’t be seeing them at all, they are by definition “in trouble” in various ways. That may or may not be the “fault” of the school or the people who work there.
@Robert: Sounds to me like your friend owes you the fine money.
Our library system is too good to not have access to. Luckily you can go online, not only to see if you have items overdue, but also to see if you owe any fines. At the same time, you can ask for books, recordings and videos from any branch in the metro area, which get delivered to your local branch for pickup. Having a central spot to check for due dates etc. makes all the difference. In your case it would have alerted you that your friend hadn’t dropped off the books.
@Robert: Why don’t you just pay the fees?
It might be pretty darn expensive if the library already ordered replacements for the books – which they would then bill to the person who “lost” them. Two months late might trigger that unhappy series of events. That is, of course, assuming that they can find a replacement Necronomicon.
I’m not surprised that parents and politicians in California found this idea appealing, because it has happened before that the teachers’ union and the school district (especially in LAUSD) get so bogged down in fighting each other that there’s no resolution to the actual problem(s) for months or even years. So I get why the idea of being able to bypass both the union and the administration was so appealing.
Of course, like all quick fixes, it just made the problem worse.
I get an email message a couple of days before the books are due.
I expect I’d get another message if they were overdue.
@NickT: Would he get to keep them then?
@Robert: Pay the fees and give them a tip. Libraries do a great service. Unless you’re broke and can’t afford it (in which case the library can be a lifesaver), it’s not a bad thing to help support them in your community.
Let me guess: the process is a one way ratchet, with no comparable 50% petition rule to take control of a school away from the charter organization that’s running it.
I had the impression that he had already returned the books in question. If the library now has duplicate copies, it might put them on sale. Our local library does that when they have their quarterly sale of donated books. I think that Robert would be best advised to try and offer some sort of part-payment and resolve the issue.
How hard would it be to come up with an anti-these people whatever the fuck they are, and start a non-profit that creates charter schools in the way they were intended instead of funneling money to corporations and reformer’s bank accounts?
@NickT: Probably not a good idea to mess with any library that has a copy of the Necronomicon.
Then again, it probably automatically steals your soul if you let it get overdue.
@Citizen_X: Did you say the words? Then you should be fine…
@NickT: Yeah, the always seem willing to work with people. I don’t currently live near enought to a library to use one, but when I did I used to love visiting there.
@NickT: I agree. Robert, these are librarians. I know librarians. They’ll want to find a way for you to be using the library again, especially since you did return the books.
In my experience, it’s slightly improbable that the books would already have been replaced if they were only two months overdue, unless they were really popular titles.
@Roger Moore: “Let me guess: the process is a one way ratchet, with no comparable 50% petition rule to take control of a school away from the charter organization that’s running it.”
That would be my guess, as with guns and fetuses and all mannner of GOP agenda items.
No, you can’t, but if you can convince enough legislators of the wisdom of your idea you can make it happen. That’s how democratically-elected legislatures work. People who care intensely about a narrow issue find ways to get what they want. If you don’t like it, then match their intensity.
Davis X. Machina
There’s no money in it. Non-profit.
Public school supporters were pushing a trigger petition process to re-reform privatized schools in New Orleans and take them public. I don’t know if they got it through.
I actually think children need some measure of sanity, stability and less chaos (not more) in their lives, so I wouldn’t be advocating for a “reverse” trigger either.
Adults really like transformative, “cage busting!” experiments (in my experience.) I don’t know any children who like experiments, or constant churn, divisive fights and changes in their lives. The children I know are fairly “conservative” in the sense that they really value stability; people and places they know, etc.
@Cassidy: I’m sure there are a few well-meaning not-for-profit charters out there. But why would someone set up a NFP to compete the national FP chains? There’s no demand for such a thing. Our model of education isn’t broken. Instead, some individual schools are broken, mostly where there are large concentrations of poor children, who tend not to be good students for a number of reasons that are not their fault.
At the public library in my town, you can pay late fees through a machine without ever having to interact shamefacedly with the people behind the desk. It’s a great innovation.
@PeakVT: I’m just wondering if these corps and “reformers” haven’t broken our system and internally, as a public school system, can they bounce back? If a non-profit could come in and partner up with the school systems to pump money back into it, instead of siphoning it off, we could get our schools to wher they should be away fromt he claws of these people.
We’re past that. The original charters in Ohio were small and local. That was 15 years ago. The thing is, it’s hard to run a school. You can’t really do it from your kitchen table. Everyone thinks they can run one, because everyone went to one, but it’s a real full-time job :)
So they ended up hiring EMO’s, which are private companies that run schools. The EMO’s went national.
Now here we are.
There’s dissent from the orignal supporters who say their idea has been hijacked. There’s a professor at Western Michigan, a charter supporter, who testifies in the MI statehouse for a moratorium, because 80% of Michigan charters are now for-profits. He’s wiling to admit the thing has gotten away from them. Sadly, there are very few dissenters, because it’s SO big now, and a lot of very important people have money and reputations on the line. They just aren’t going to admit it’s out of control.
To make money on a charter, you have to shortchange the students. My son went to a charter school that was started and run by people that cared about education, and there was no money left over for corporate profit.
Why does the idea of ad hoc “citizens’ committees” making binding decisions about things like this make me very wary?
OT. Frank Lautenberg has died.
@Kay: How clever of the wingnut union busters (Walton family, etc.) to dress this power grab up in the garb of scrappy working-class moms fighting the system on behalf of their kids! It needs to be pointed out early and often that it’s really a big business giveaway, but that’s going to take school-level involvement by people who get what’s going on. The media that calls Jeb Bush an “education innovator” with a straight face obviously isn’t up to the task.
@Kay: I guess I was just hinking the only way too fight money is with money.
Well in our library system you can pay online, so,yah boo sucks to you, Matt McIrvin!
@Robert: My library does canned food for late fees a couple times a year. One can of food equals a $1 fine. Maybe your library does something similar. Another thing to keep in mind for the future is find out if your library is online. Mine is and I live in a small town. At my online library I can recheck-out books, check status, reserve books, and such.
Hi Betty! I love the wine foil animals. The elephant looked just like an elephant. I don’t think you get enough positive feedback for your art here.
Maybe I’m being too harsh, but I think I would get that something was up with these movies. There’s now been two of them. The trigger movie bombed as a movie, so maybe people do get it.
I watched Education Nation (NBC’s hours-long advertisement for ‘private sector’ schools) a couple of years ago and it just was so blatantly commercial. At one point they had the governors sitting in front of a huge University of Phoenix banner. I was embarrassed for them, sitting there, like dopes. God. Show some self respect.
It just isn’t subtle.
HAT TIP- THE BLACKLIBERALBOOMER
KAY, did you see this?
May 24, 2013 at 12:54 pm
Detroit school reform agency embellished bid to get $35M in funds
EAA overstated authority in federal grant application
Education Achievement Authority officials overstated their authority to take over failing schools across Michigan in a bid to win a $35.4 million federal grant — six weeks before they began operating in September.
The application to the U.S. Department of Education for a five-year teacher merit pay program claimed the reform district with 15 Detroit schools had legislative permission to grow to 60 schools in 10 urban districts by 2017, which it doesn’t.
The grant application took liberties with other facts, claiming to be an IRS-authorized charitable organization and that EAA Chancellor John Covington “has been given the mandate and authority to take control of persistently poor performing schools throughout Michigan” — an issue still being debated in the Legislature.
EAA spokesman Bob Berg said the inaccuracies were “screw-ups” in a hastily written application submitted in late July and approved in October.
It is one of several missteps by the school reform agency discovered by The Detroit News in records made public through a Freedom of Information Act request. The errors show an agency that initially was in chaos. And revelations of its problems have slowed an effort to expand the authority to include other poorly performing schools in Michigan. The House narrowly passed EAA expansion legislation, but it is in limbo in the Senate because Education Committee chairman Phil Pavlov opposes some provisions.
EAA skeptics say Gov. Rick Snyder’s school reform project needs to operate for more than a year before lawmakers make it a permanent district that can take over other schools.
“Clearly this is ready, fire, aim, construct,” said Michael Rice, superintendent of Kalamazoo Public Schools, who was surprised to learn the grant application noted the authority would take control of three of his district’s schools. “Charitably, the grant application was optimistic. Less charitably, it was presumptuous.”
In addition to Detroit and Kalamazoo, the grant said it would be running schools in Battle Creek, Flint, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Pontiac, Port Huron, Saginaw and Southfield. The grant was approved, and the EAA is eligible to receive $1.6 million at the end of this school year, Berg said.
“They make it seem as though it’s a done deal,” said Robert Floden, co-director of the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University, who reviewed the grant for The News.
Debbie DiVirgilio, president and interim CEO of the Grant Professionals Association in Kansas City, said it is not an accepted practice among grant applicants to use inaccurate data.
“Grant applicants are encouraged to uphold a high standard of ethics and use legitimate numbers. Surely you can project there will be growth, but it has to be realistic,” DiVirgilio said.
From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130524/SCHOOLS/305240328#ixzz2VBcCtsOt
I didn’t see it, thank you. I’m surprised they tried to.pull a fast one on Kalamazoo schools, because that’s an engaged district. They had the Kalamazoo Promise, which made national news. If you attend K-zoo pulic schools k-12, they have a donor who’ll pay for college.
It’s outrageous they’re trying to pull in other districts without their knowledge.
Snyder is a snake. The man is just dishonest.
In our town we have circulated petitions so that school issues can be addressed by the School Board and Town Council. I would be very troubled by a petition as vote process. The person describing what is included in the petition wields a lot of influence in that situation. When I get petition signatures I always instruct people to read them because so many people will just ask what it is about and want to sign without checking.
It makes my head hurt to think about all that is wrong with the “parent trigger” process.
How much would do you love that they hired an out of state grant firm to write that grant?
There’s NO ONE in the State of Michigan who can write a grant?
I have an idea! They could hire someone in Detroit! Ya know, where the schools are!
Salon frequently annoys me, but they have a story up today about these “reform” assholes – “New data shows school ‘reformers” are full of [sh]it”
they were lying to the Guvmint. Who can lie to the Guvmint about millions of dollars and not be at risk of GOING TO JAIL?
It should be a crime to ship public money out of Detroit.
Are they insane? Every single public dollar that comes into Detroit should be spent there.
I know I should just pay the fees. Every time I’ve had to go in there to replace my card because my wallet was stolen, ask for help finding materials in reserves, or pay the occasional late fees in the past 27 years, I get brow beaten for wasting their time. It’s not all of the librarians. It’s the few who have been there the longest that probably should have retired already.
I use the local college library. I pay a fee to borrow from the NYPL system since I visit NYC so often and they have much better resources for what I write about. I have access to materials at the schools I work for. I just got set up with alumni privileges at the college I graduated from. These are the libraries I wind up using and have been using since I was in high school.
There was a brief 3 month period where the town library had every oversized literary and film reference book I needed for my work; I wound up fishing 3 of the 20 some odd books I was using out of their dumpster. They throw out a lot of books each week and the shelves are half empty. Good books that just haven’t been borrowed get pitched and replaced with a couple copies of a new release best seller. Meanwhile, I drive five minutes down the road to the next town and the librarians are happy to fulfill a request for a book in their storage room. I try that in town and I get told I’m wasting their time.
Maybe they’ve changed recently but I’m not holding my breath. This is the library that threw me out of the summer reader’s program in 2nd grade because they refused to believe I read as fast as I did. I went through one book a day on school days and 2-3 a day on weekends and over the summer. My parents took me to the bookstore every week to let me pick up one new book to add to my own collection. But to the library staff, I had to be lying and my mother was told to be ashamed of my behavior. And these are the same librarians who give me shit for being robbed on the subway during a research trip in NYC.