Parent Trigger makes a stop at the Senate Education Appropriations Committee today. A well-paid lobbyist or two from Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future will be there and insists that the bill is all about giving parents a seat at the table. We found out yesterday that this mantra isn’t even true. Miami Herald writer Daniel Shoer Roth took a closer look at what happened at the other California school where Parent Trigger was successfully utilized.
In California, Parent Revolution, a Los Angeles-based advocacy group, trained and provided pro bono services to the Desert Trail Parent Union. Following the group’s advice, the parents distributed two petitions. The first one sought to reform the school through class-size reductions, extending school hours, acquiring more technological resources for students and requiring master’s degrees for teachers. The second one, which would supposedly be used only as a way of pressuring Adelanto school district officials to accept the terms of the first petition, proposed transforming the school into a charter.
Parents representing more than 50 percent of the students signed both petitions, but only the second one was submitted to the School Board.
“Many parents felt betrayed and asked to remove their signatures,” Carlos Mendoza, former president of the Adelanto School Board, told me on Tuesday. The Florida bill also permits parents to sign multiple petitions and is therefore susceptible to the same bait-and-switch tactics.
A dispute erupted because it wasn’t clear whether parents could remove their names. The Parent Union filed a lawsuit in a county court and a judge ruled in their favor.
The school board ended up accepting the petition, but it was already too late for a conversion because the school year had started.
“We gave them everything they wanted,” said Mendoza. “But the small group of parents that was empowered took us to court again to force the conversion into a charter.”
In October, only the parents who had signed the petition had the opportunity to choose between two charter operators. Only a fraction of the signees attended to vote. In the end, about 50 parents decided the future of more than 600 students.
As demonstrated with this example, the goal of those who organized the petition process was not to reform but to impose a charter conversion. And what was the result? “This law takes power away from the community and grants it to a small group of parents,” Mendoza explained.
Roth offers more details:
According to Bill Sublette, chairman of the Orange County School Board in Central Florida, once a traditional school is converted to a charter school, the neighborhood children can be evicted from their home school. Charters are open to all students in the district who meet their eligibility preferences and standards. When there are more applicants than student stations, a lottery system prevails.
Some local students will not meet the new strict admission rules. This includes students with learning disabilities and those in ESOL classes, as well as many racial and ethnic minority children. A number of surveys have demonstrated that there is a higher incidence of segregation in charters than in traditional schools. The excluded students will carry to their next school the same unsolved problems that contributed to the failure of the converted school, often related to poverty and a range of health and safety challenges
Republican senators aren’t blind to the realities of Parent Trigger, but they appear to be blindly following what Jeb Bush wants. Will any have the courage to say no?