Last Modified: Wednesday, July 18, 2012 11:06 AM
The recently approved “parent trigger” law has local principals and teachers protesting what they call the “privatization of public education.”
The law will allow parents to petition the state and take over schools that have received a grade of D or F for three consecutive school years. The law was a part of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education reform package and was approved by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in June.
To use the “parent trigger,” parents will have to come together and collect signatures from 50 percent of the parents or legal guardians of students attending the school, plus one more signature, and submit the petition to the Education Department.
If parents acquire the signatures, the school will be removed from the jurisdiction of the local school board and be placed in the Recovery School District. It would then be either operated by the RSD or become a Type 5 charter school.
The new policy says parents cannot be intimidated or threatened into signing or not signing the petition. School board, district and school-specific employees are not allowed to use public resources to support or oppose a petition.
Local educators said these restrictions make the process unfair.
“I have a problem with the law. If you compare it to someone taking you to court, you have a right to defend yourself. This law says, ‘No, you don’t. You can’t say anything,’ ” said Kay Victorian, the principal at T.H. Watkins.
“As a public school principal, a teacher, a school board, we cannot say anything negative. If they want to start that trigger, by law you cannot coerce, you can’t have meetings, you can’t call them on the phone. They can do it, but we can’t,” said Vicky Johnston, a second-grade teacher at LeBleu Settlement Elementary.
Johnston said that there is a group of organizations in Louisiana that showed support for the voucher program and the “parent trigger” law that are already using their resources to reach out to parents.
“They are going to give our kids laptops. They are going to give our kids iPads. They are going to remodel our school. We’re going to get a new gym. There is no telling what they (parents) are going to be told in order to take over a school,” she said. “They are going to be sending out those mailers. There is no telling what promises they are going to be told.”
These organizations include the Louisiana Federation for Children, Students Matter, Students First and Parent Revolution, Johnston said.
“I’m not against parent trigger. I’m against the way it’s set up. There is going to be some other company that comes in that’s going to tell these parents what to do and then make a profit off of it. You don’t necessarily have somebody that is going to be in the best interest of the child; it becomes a financial thing. They make their profit whether the school performs well or not,” said Brent Washington, principal at Brentwood Elementary School.
“How does this all work after that private company doesn’t do what it’s supposed to?”
Barry Landry, spokesperson for the state Department of Education, said the provision is designed to protect parents and their children.
“Act 2 states that parents cannot be harassed, threatened or intimidated during the process of circulating or signing the petition. It also prohibits school and district resources from being used to support or oppose any effort of parents to gather the required signatures or submit the petition. This is important to ensure that parents have the ability to make a decision to sign or not sign the petition without undue pressure or fear of reprisal to them or their child from the school in which their child is enrolled,” he said.
Washington said he believes this “privatization of public education” is the bigger issue.
“We might as well call it what it is. There is a hype that’s going, and the sad thing about it is the only people getting hurt are children,” he said.
However, Landry said the Education Department does not see it that way.
“The parent petition provision of Act 2 allows parents to petition the state board to have their child’s public school transferred to the jurisdiction of the Recovery School District should over 50 percent of parents sign the petition. The Recovery School District is run by the Louisiana Department of Education, a state agency. All schools run by the RSD remain public schools,” Landry said.
There are 17 schools in Calcasieu Parish that could be affected by the “parent trigger” law — 10 elementary schools, five middle schools and two high schools. This tally is based on the 2010-2011 school performance scores and the scores of the two previous years.
“It almost benefits the state to have D schools because then they can sit up there and say this is why we passed that legislation. You have this many kids in D schools, this is why we needed this vote,” Washington said.
“You have to wonder if we spent as much time as we do trying to figure out how to get kids out of schools trying to figure out what to do at those schools with those students, what would happen?”
Posted By: Jim On: 7/17/2012
Title: Where's the Fix in all of This?
All I see in this issue and supporting article is "blah...blah...blah--woe is me!"
Here's the challenge to all involved. WHERE?!? WHERE?!? WHERE has anyone involved with this whole ordeal, to include those identified in this article, made any proposal regarding how to "fix" the problem? All I keep seeing is principals, teachers and state leaders throwing out "tit-for-tat" accusations of blame with no real resolve in sight.
Stop casting blame and start developing solutions. This is another prime example of the fact that someone needs to step in and turn the entire system upside down and inside out. This is not a bottom up approach; the children whom you all speak so blatantly of can't resolve the problem; the parent(s) can affect some change, but the real issues rest at the top. It's simple: evaluate the weakness(es) from the top down and "re-train" or "replace". Does anyone really comprehend the difference between a failing student vs a failing school? You can certainly cast doubt toward a parent whose child is failing, but it's impossible to cast BLAME on all the parents when an entire school is failing.
The RSD can't and won't fix the problem. Trust me from first hand experience, RSD will only invoke status quo--or make the problem worse. By the way, do the people in Calcasieu Parsh understand that the RSD Program is run by the State, not the Parish? And do the people also understand that when the RSD takes over the implication is that the Parish School System is not doing it's job?
Again, WHERE's THE FIX IN ALL OF THIS?!? Where is the personal and professional accountability of the leaders (e.g. principals, teachers, parish and state heads)?