"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Public Trust

There's a new tactic being used by those who wish to privatize America's public education system. It's called the "Parent Trigger." This tactic, as explained by Diane Ravitch in her Bridging Differences Blog,
...allows a majority of parents in a low-performing school to sign a petition that leads to various sanctions for the school: firing all or some of the staff, turning the school over to charter management, or closing the school. These are similar to the options in the U.S. Department of Education's School Improvement Grant program. All of them are punitive, none is supportive of changing the school for the better, and none has a shred of evidence to show that it will improve the school. Neither the Parent Trigger nor the federal SIG program offers any constructive alternatives to unhappy parents, only ways to punish the school for low scores.
The Parent Revolution is a group that encourages parents to utilize the Parent Trigger. Their goal, as claimed on their web site, is to "take back your school, for your child, your community and your future." The video on the home page states,
The only way to change [schools] is to give power to the only people who only care about children — parents.
Though worded carefully the intent of the comment is clear. The educators -- teachers, and administrators -- who work in the so-called 'failing' public schools, don't care about children.

Parents have the right to demand that schools meet the needs of their children. Municipalities, however, have the obligation to improve the schools. The trend encouraged by the US DOE, which began with No Child Left Behind and continues unabated with Race to the Top, is to throw schools filled with struggling students away, not fix them. They close schools that are in difficulty, ship the students to other schools, open charter schools, and/or fire teachers and principals. None of those "solutions" deal with the core issues of failing schools. None have any research basis whatsoever. The vast majority of charter schools don't perform better than the vast majority of regular public schools.

Ravitch concludes,
a public school is a public trust. It doesn't belong to the students who are currently enrolled in it or their parents or to the teachers who currently teach in it. All of them are part of the school community, and that community needs to collaborate to make the school better for everyone. Together, they should be able to redesign or create or discontinue programs and services. But collaboration is not the same as ownership. The school belongs to the public, to the commonwealth. It belongs to everyone who ever attended it (and their parents) and to future generations. It is part of the public patrimony, not an asset that can be closed or privatized by its current constituents.

If a school is dysfunctional, those who are in charge of the district are obliged to find out why and to do whatever they can to fix the problems. If the principal is incompetent, he or she should be removed. If there are teachers who are incompetent, they should be removed. If the school is doing poorly because it lacks necessary resources, the district is obliged to do whatever it can to improve the school.

ASIDE: The Parent Revolution in Action: McKinley Elementary School in Compton.

There does seem to be some overlap between the Parent Revolution and the Charter School industry. According to Larry Ferlazzo,
the chair of Parent Revolution’s board is the head of charter operator Green Dot Schools
and
Parent Revolution’s primary funders are the same ones who are the biggest funders of charter schools
So what we're looking at is a group with ties to charter entrepreneurs who are encouraging parents to take action to close their schools so they can be reopened...as charters.

Parent Revolution was instrumental in engaging the "parent trigger" at McKinley Elementary School in Compton California. A Charter school was established, but, a comment on Bridging Differences claims that,
Chaos ensued after the Parent Trigger was deployed against McKinley Elementary in Compton. After the dust settled, the Celerity charter operator opened this fall in a nearby church rather than taking over McKinley Elementary. The big news, as reported by the New York Times last week...is that only a small number of McKinley students have been enrolled in the new charter. So much for the notion that the families were clamoring to have this charter operator educate their kids. (Unless, of course, Celerity rejected many of the students, which is quite possible, though that would be a different story that also reveals what a failure this operation was.)
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