Parent Trigger

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BACKGROUND

“Parent Trigger” was first conceived by an organization in Los Angeles called the Parent Revolution. Parent Revolution was founded by a charter school operator.


Under most parent trigger proposals, if 51% of parents at a school can be persuaded to sign a petition calling for any of a narrow set of options – either firing all the teaching staff, closing the school, or privatizing the school by turning it over to a charter school operator, this must occur…even though none of these options have any record of success.


Parent Trigger laws have gone into effect in several states with disastrous results. Despite the fairy tale portrayal in the movie, “Won’t Back Down”, parent trigger campaigns have been successful at little more than pitting parents, students and teachers against one another.


In 2012, parent trigger legislation was proposed in Florida as the “Parent Empowerment Act.” It passed the Florida House of Representative but died in the Florida Senate in the final days of the session on a 20-20 vote.


Supporters of the so-called parent trigger legislation often mislead lawmakers and the public about what this bill does and who supports it. The fact is every credible parent group in Florida has been opposed to this bill because it is not about parents or students. It is about corporations that want to manipulate concerned parents into sabotaging their local public schools and turning over public property and tax dollars to them.


Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters and a parent advocate in New York City, summed it up best: “The Parent Trigger was devised as an underhanded trick by the charter lobby to manipulate parents into letting them privatize more public schools.”


 


FEA POSITION

There is no silver bullet solution for turning around struggling schools. FEA believes we need to invest in the classroom priorities that build a foundation for student learning rather than simply turning our children, our school buildings and our tax dollars over to profit driven corporations and hoping for the best.

Parents in other communities have tried the parent trigger, and it’s misfired every time. We can’t afford to risk our children’s future.



DISCUSSION POINTS

  • Parent triggers ignite controversy and confrontation instead of collaboration. In Florida, teachers and parent groups are on the same team. The goal is student success and accountability but students – not profits – must be at the center of reform. Our schools need a call to collaborate, not a call to arms.
  • Parent trigger seems like a catchy concept that hasn’t demonstrated any improvement in student achievement in any state. Simply signing a petition to close a school or convert it to a charter school after a school is labeled a failure does not engage parents in any meaningful way.
  • Florida’s parent groups are actively working to improve schools through smaller class sizes, less testing, and authentic parent participation rather than failed school choice models.
  • Florida public schools are meeting every standard and providing quality educational experiences for students.
  • Parents in Florida already have significant statutory rights and privileges by which they can inform and influence the school community, including the ability under current law to convert a traditional public school to a charter school F.S. 1002.33(3)(b). They also are afforded the option of waiving their child’s school assignments at the local level.
  • Current research demonstrates that many charter and virtual schools are not meeting the educational mandates required of public schools.
  • These bills let private education enterprises market and lobby parents to place their child in a charter school or virtual education, despite the fact that these enterprises have a weak education track record compared to most public schools.
  • The research shows what actually works:
    • Parental reinforcement, encouragement and support can advance a child’s ability to achieve while contributing to a climate of collaboration in a school. (Henderson, et al., 1994)
    • Genuine parental engagement produces long-term relationships, connects the school community to the larger community and creates structures for becoming involved in a child’s education -- for example, accessing all pertinent information about the school environment and educational options.
    • A large, longitudinal study by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research identified five essential, inter-related elements of school transformation: (1) leadership, (2) professional capacity, (3) academic content/instructional guidance, (4) student-centered learning climate, and (5) parent-school-community ties. (Bryk, Sebring, Allensworth, Lippescu and Easton, 2010)
    • While no one-size-fits-all approach exists, many communities are building on research-tested models and getting results -- for example, Wicomico County, Maryland; Oklahoma City; and Phoenix, Arizona.
    • Reorganizing a school does not magically lead to results. To bring improvement, the new organization must build a greater sense of inclusion and social trust among different members of the community: administrators, teachers, parents and students. (Bryk and Schneider)
    • Threatening reconstitution can trigger intense short-term efforts -- like focusing on test preparation -- that may help get a school off probation, but do not lay a foundation for long-term, substantive improvement. (Finnegan and Gross, 2007; White and Rosenbaum, 2008)
    • Other unintended consequences often include a stressful atmosphere that encourages many educators to leave—and when they do, strong social and community connections go with them. (Sunderman, 2001; Wong and Agnostopolous, 1998


      The Truth Behind the So-Called “Parent Trigger”

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