Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Day 2: Add Your Comments at Ed Notes on Parent Trigger Online Debate at Manhattan Institute - Tuesday, Aug. 16


Since there is no room for comments we are using Ed Notes as the vehicle for public comment every day.

Here is the link to the debate so far:

Tomorrow at 12 noon you can see the responses to each other and so on through Thursday.

See Julie nail Ben again and Caroline Grannan hit him again as he tries to get off the floor.
Boychuk says:
where parents are routinely dismissed or where their involvement is answered with condescension and suspicion—then the “parent trigger” is indeed “real parent choice” and genuinely empowering.
Now we know ed deformers don't really want to empower parents and Julie exposes them:

Stating that parent choice increases involvement, let alone empowerment, is not entirely accurate.  What is parent choice? Are we ensuring choices that are authentic and meaningful or are we giving the illusion of choice? What is involvement? Are we ensuring parents are given the power to demand the programs and services they want for their children or are we giving them a voice, but ignoring their choices? Parent activist Karen Harper-Royal often points out, in the world of school choice, “schools choose and parents and kids lose.”
The “parent trigger” is an illusion of choice and an impediment to empowerment. True choice and empowerment would include parents having a genuine seat at the table; preparing the menu, gathering the ingredients with administrators and educators, and together cooking the meal, setting the table, and enjoying their collaborative educational feast. Policy such as the “parent trigger” leaves parents with one option: clean up after all of the wrong ingredients have been purchased and the meal is burnt. If the goal is to cultivate parent choice and empowerment there is a simple solution: give parents what they want.  In parent surveys across the country, and every year here in New York City, parents demand one reform consistently: small class size

You go girl.

By the way, for those of you educators out there who pay lip service to parent involvement and in fact believe parents should have as little say in schools as possible (and at time in my career some thoughts have run through my head along these lines) let me say that Julie is not just blowing smoke. When she says she is passionate about empowering parents she means it - one of the most articulate spokes persons on this issue I've met - and she has influenced me. Now if you don't think Julie's position is not diametrically different from where the UFT has always come from (explaining why they are for mayoral control) you are smoking something.

Below is Caroline Grannan, an expert on the Parent Trigger responding to Boychuk's lauding McKinley as a model.

In the Compton Unified School District, where parents at McKinley Elementary petitioned to convert their school into an independent charter, a two-year state audit concluded: “[T]he focus in the district at this time is primarily on the adult issues and not on student needs. There’s a lack of civility for people in various meetings and throughout the school visits. We have evidence that adults are not being held accountable for their work nor for their ethical behavior.”

Caroline Grannan (I highlighted a key point in red)

Before even reading the debate itself, I'm responding to Manhattan Institute's introduction, which describes the Parent Trigger in its own fashion.

The legislation POSES AS empowering parents to make these changes in their school. This has not actually happened in any California schools. There is only one case in which the petition signatures have actually been presented – McKinley Elementary in Compton, CA. The petition drive was initiated and carried out not by parents but by the organization Parent Revolution, which was created by and for charter school operators. Parent Revolution selected the school to target and pre-selected the charter operator to take over the school before its paid operation approached a single McKinley parent for a signature. The signature-gathering was conducted in stealth, so that parents were unaware that they had other choices, and there was no discussion of pros and cons. Clearly, that was not a process that “empowered” parents. There have, as yet, been no other cases of completed Parent Trigger petition drives. That is the experience to date in California.

It is presumably accurate that some education professionals – as well as other advocates of public education, myself included – view the law as part of the effort to dismantle the public school system. It's not accurate or fair to use the inflammatory quote “lynch mob provision,” from a blurt by one person, and claim that “many education professionals” endorse that term.

The politics of the parent trigger are DELIBERATELY confusing, with the forces behind it making a show of portraying themselves, falsely and misleadingly, as pro-labor liberals.

Here are some responses to Ben Boychuk.
He says: "...parents are the one “stakeholder” in public education without a conflict of interest...."

However, parents' interests may conflict with each other. For example, charter schools notoriously serve far fewer high-needs students – the very poor (free-lunch rather than reduced-lunch), the disabled and English-language learners. Parents whose kids don't fall into that category may be eager to charterize, but a resulting charter school is – as amply demonstrated by reality – unlikely to serve the highest-need students. No matter what the promises, charters always have found and always fill find a way to exclude and dump those students. Public schools, by contrast, must serve all students.


As noted in my response to the introduction to this debate, it was not parents who attempted to use the law in Compton, Calif. The petition drive was mounted by Parent Revolution, an organization created by and for charter school operators, which pre-selected the option of charterizing and pre-selected the charter before a single parent at the school ever heard about it.


There are many reasons to oppose the Parent Trigger, starting with the fact that the notion of turning public property over to private hands based on a petition drive is problematic. It's false and misleading to claim that the only reason there's opposition is that it threatens union power.

The notion that the Parent Trigger would increase parent involvement is questionable. At least here in California, home of the Parent Trigger, public schools are required to involved parents in school governance through School Site Councils. Admittedly, that often doesn't work effectively. However, there is no such requirement for charter schools, so parents have LESS power if the school becomes a charter. They only get a voice at all if the charter operator chooses to grant it. That's the nature of privatization.

Here are previous posts with links:

Add Your Comments at Ed Notes on Parent Trigger Online Debate at Manhattan Institute - Monday Aug. 15

Gem's Julie Cavanagh Debates Parent Trigger online this week in Manhattan Institute Sponsored Event starting Monday at 12 noon...and lasting through Thursday

I'll be out all day tomorrow through the eve at the PEP - be there or be square - so won't be able to post the links 'till late eve or Thurs AM.

1 comment:

  1. Here are my comments in response to Ben Boychuk's Day 2 argument.

    Boychuk says: "...where parents are routinely dismissed or where their involvement is answered with condescension and suspicion—then the “parent trigger” is indeed “real parent choice” and genuinely empowering."

    My response: No it isn't -- not the way it was used in Compton. Parent Revolution – the organization founded and run by and for charter operators, which ran the signature drive – kept parents unaware of their choices, and Parent Revolution’s stealth signature drive meant there was no opportunity for the parents to discuss pros and cons. That is not “real parent choice” and is not “empowering.”

    Boychuk says: “The point is: a “parent trigger” is not a substitute for traditional parental involvement, but rather a powerful supplement to it.”

    My response: Wrong. California public schools are required to be governed by a School Site Council that includes parents. That often functions imperfectly, but the law DOES give parents that access and voice. Parents may also form or join groups such as the PTA or PTOs. In a privatized charter model, the charter operator gets to choose whether or not the parents get any voice at all. That is not a “powerful supplement” to parents’ right to sit on the SSC and join the PTA – rather, on the face of it, charterizing eliminates those rights. Parents are only allowed at the table if the charter operator feels like letting them sit down.

    Boychuk says of dissenters who criticize the Parent Trigger: “But isn’t the real problem that the parent trigger promotes what PAA regards as the wrong kind of reforms and grassroots activism?”

    My response: No. The real problems are that handing public property over to private operators is highly questionable, and that the Parent Trigger is designed to empower charter school operators, not parents.

    Boychuk refers to "... the recent revelations about lessons the American Federation of Teachers’ took from its successful effort last year to “diffuse” (sic) the “parent trigger” in Connecticut."

    My response: Time to defuse defuse the phony smoking gun. Actually, those are not revelations at all. The AFT document is a not-very-well-done presentation about a run-of-the-mill, perfectly legitimate lobbying effort. It consisted of meeting with legislators to try to persuade them of the AFT’s view. Here in California, the California state PTA engaged in the same kind of lobbying against the Parent Trigger. Unlike the case of a recent scandal over education “reformer” lobbying in Illinois, no politicians were purchased or bribed in that AFT lobbying, and no deceit was employed. The “reformers” have made a flamboyant effort to create a phony brouhaha over nothing.

    Boychuk says: "But I worry your position—and that of your friends at Parents Across America—taken to its logical conclusions would leave parents as little more than junior partners whose concerns are tolerated up to the point they conflict with other, less humane interests."

    My response: And yet the privatizers’ position would shut parents out entirely unless the charter operator that had taken over their school deigned to let them in.


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