Parent Trigger Act Another Threat to Public Education in Georgia (UPDATE 1)

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(APN) ATLANTA — HB 123, the Parent and Teacher Empowerment Act, also known as the Parent Trigger Act, is the latest effort by some, mostly Republican, legislators, to promote charter schools in Georgia and continue to undermine the public education system and public schools.

The Act was introduced on January 28, 2013 by State Reps. Edward Lindsey (R-Atlanta), Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth), Jan Jones (R-Milton), Mike Glanton (D-Jonesboro), David Casas (R-Lilburn), and Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Austell).

Last week, the bill passed a House Education Subcommittee and is expected to be considered by full Education Committee this week.

“As I have said in the past, charter schools are not the magic silver bullet to fix Georgia’s education problems – there is no silver bullet… [but] I do believe that options must exist so children across the state may live up to their full potential. This bill will further the viability of options for parents and teachers across the state,” Lindsey said in a January 2013 press release.

The parent trigger bill uses broad language to allow parents and teachers to convert a public school deemed to be a low-achieving school into a charter school by a petition of more than fifty percent of the parents and guardians, or fifty percent of teachers.  The local School Board can reject the petition by a two-thirds vote and can act within sixty days of receiving a petition.

The bill also allows for a petition to force a so-called low achieving school to undertake a turnaround model.

The charter petitioner could be “a local school, local board of education, private individual, private organization, or state or local public entity that submits a petition for a charter….(but) does not include home study programs or schools, sectarian schools, religious schools, private for profit schools, private educational institutions not established, operated, or governed by the State of Georgia, or existing private schools.”

The petition is based on “a majority of the parents or guardians of students who are eligible to enroll in one of the schools within the high school cluster the following year… by the signatures of more than 50 percent of such parents or guardians.”

Other than parents, a petition can be by “a majority of the faculty and instructional staff members of the local school, or for a high school cluster… The signatures of more than 50 percent of such faculty and instructional staff members; or vote of more than 50 percent of such faculty and instructional staff members taken by secret ballot at a public meeting called with two weeks’ advance notice.”

A low-achieving school means a public school that has unacceptable ratings on student achievement, achievement gap closure, or student progress; or a public school that is the “lowest 20 percent of all public schools in this state based on school performance as determined by the Department of Education; a public elementary or middle school with less than 65% of the students across all grades meet or exceed performance standards in reading and math; or a public high school has graduation rates of less than 65%.”

Once the petition is submitted regarding a low achieving school, it must use one of the turnaround models: to remove school personnel that did not improve student progress; complete reconstitution by removing all personnel and appointing new staff; mandate parents can relocate to another public school and provide transportation; mandate a monitor, master, or management team paid by the school system; implement an intensive student achievement improvement plan; or mandate a complete restructuring of the school’s governance.

The management team could mean a nonprofit or for-profit organization that could operate the school and charge the taxpayers a management fee.

This is not the first time a Parent Trigger Act was pushed.  In 2011-12, Georgia Republican State Sens. Chip Rogers and John Albers sponsored SB 68, the Parent Trigger Act, but it was later voted down.

Another bill that failed, was sponsored by Reps. Lindsey, Coleman, Kathy Ashe, Ed Setzler, Mark Hamilton, and Mike Dudgeon in the 2011-12 session, HB 731, the Parent Trigger Act.

“The events at North Atlanta High School highlight the need for this kind of legislation. Parents, students, and school staff were completely cut out of the decision making process. That is no way to instill needed confidence to improve our schools,” Lindsey said.

“An integral part of improving education in Georgia is greater parent buy-in to their children’s education. The parent trigger proposal will assist parents with this in both well-established and struggling low performance schools,” Lindsey said.

Only seven states have parent trigger laws. The first was California in 2010 and later Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio. and Texas. Georgia and twenty other states have considered and failed to pass parent trigger laws.

According to the Georgia Department of Education for 2012, there were 217 Georgia public charters schools and 2,072 traditional public schools.

“The Parent Trigger is just one piece of the pie, there is HB 1162 and HB 797 that [now] goes into effect,” Verdalia Turner, President of the Georgia Federation of Teachers tells Atlanta Progressive News.

Those two pieces of legislation last year led to a successful, but deceptive November ballot referendum which recreated the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, an agency that can override the decisions of local school boards and the State Board of Education, to approve new charter schools.

“The language of the ballot, like HB 797 is that charter schools have no standardization to abide by,” Turner said.

 

“If it passes, the real deal is when it is implemented. The hired guns and businesses will be running these schools… The whole deal is about placing taxpayer money into special interest hands,” Turner said.

“This [school choice] movement is not about improving education, but lawmakers and lobby groups that influence them… Research shows that charters do as well or worse as public schools,” Turner said.

(END/2013)

CORRECTION: This article accidentally at first incorrectly labeled Rep. Lindsey as a Democrat; he is a Republican.

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