Thursday, February 10, 2011

California to Modify Parent Trigger Law (Maybe)

Trigger Happy Ed Pirate (by Alberto+Cerriteno)
In its first meeting with the new Gov. Brown-appointed majority, the California Board of Education moved to restrict the Parent Trigger law that allows parents to shut down a low-performing schools, fire its teachers and reopen as a private charter school. Board of Ed officials said that the law, as written, was too vague and would be difficult to enforce, thus requiring “cleanup” legislation.

While Parent Trigger cheerleaders are saying that the move is an attempt to derail the law, the Board of Education is merely attempting to fine-tune the law, not do away with it. They did not even take any concrete actions on the law, but simply set up a working group to study it. They say they want to continue supporting parental choice, which sounds like a capitulation to proponents of the parent trigger law, as well as vouchers, charter schools and other anti-education schemes.

The Parent Trigger law was first implemented at McKinley school in Compton. In this case, there were numerous complaints of coercive techniques and intimidation to get parental support for the takeover. Some parents were threatened with deportation if they didn’t vote for the closure. Others were harassed at home or work. The group behind the takeover, Parent Revolution, is a front group for Green Dot charter schools, a private Educational Management Organization (EMO) that stands to profit from the Parent Trigger law.

Much in the same way that the anti-health reform hysteria has been bankrolled by Tea Party funders, like the Koch brothers, the Parent-Trigger movement has been funded by corporate Ed Deformers. Parent Revolution was bankrolled by Eli Broad, a billionaire who has no kids in k-12 public schools anywhere, and by Green Dot, a private, for-profit charter organization. Parent Revolution is headed by Steve Barr, former CEO of Green Dot and had eight paid staffers working on the campaign to take over McKinley, hardly a grass-roots, parent led movement.

There are many problems with the current law. As written, the law does not require that accurate independent information be provided to parents, nor does it require any independent analysis of the propaganda that is provided (which in the McKinley case came primarily from a group seeking to benefit financially from the decision). The law also does not require transparency, which allows groups like Parent Revolution to pretend to be a truly parent-led organization, thus disguising their profit-motive. Another problem with the parent trigger is that it cannot solve the make a low-performing school become a high-achieving school. As long as the clientele remain the same, generally low income students, simply swapping teachers or bringing in some corporate raiders is not going to miraculously close the achievement gap for them, anymore than it will put food in their mouths, a roof over their heads, income for their parents, healthcare, summer enrichment activities, etc.

Is it really parental empowerment to give parents the power (with only a 51% majority) to fire teachers or relinquish control and decision-making (and possibly profit-making) to an unaccountable private company?


  1. Let's hope that this new SBE, which isn't completely dominated by charter-voucher industry employees like the previous one, carefully implements the regulations so that charter-charlatans can't continue to use it as a windfall for hungry Charter Management Organizations.

    Considering that the entire community in an attendance boundary is effected by this legislation, it's a subversion of democracy to allow a tiny minority of stake-holders (51% of currently enrolled or feeder enrollments) to dictate terms to entire communities.

    We know the plutocrats Ben Austin works for considers the few making decisions for the many "democracy," but that's now how the rest of us see it.

  2. Scams to privatize schools won't be going away any time soon. The new board doesn't seem keen on really standing up to the EMOs. At best, what we're likely to see, is some road blocks.

    By the way, democracy has always been about a tiny minority of "stake-holders," running the show (corporate and inheritance tax cuts, attacks on social security, etc.). The 51% is window dressing to make it seem like majority rule.