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Posted by madfloridian in General Discussion
Tue Oct 04th 2011, 02:15 PM
At Education Week today at the Bridging Differences blog by Diane Ravitch.

The Trouble With the Parent Trigger

Supporters of the Parent Trigger say it empowers parents, especially poor parents, and gives them a tool with which to change their school. They say that it enhances not only parent power, but school choice.

But consider who created the Parent Trigger. The promoter of the legislation was a group called Parent Revolution, which is funded by charter school operators (it has some affiliation with Green Dot, whose chief executive officer sits on the board of Parent Revolution) and by venture philanthropists (including the Broad Foundation, the Gates Foundation, the Wasserman Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation). Its executive director, Ben Austin, a lawyer, was appointed by Gov. Schwarzenegger to California's state board of education (and removed by Gov. Jerry Brown when he took office in 2011).

Parent Revolution is what is known as an "Astroturf" group, an organization pretending to be representative of ordinary parents, but actually promoting a charter agenda.

When Parent Revolution sent paid organizers to gather signatures from parents at McKinley Elementary School in Compton, Calif., the campaign was conducted secretively. The organizers collected signatures from 60 percent of the parents. When the petition was submitted to the school district in December 2010, it designated the charter operator—the Celerity Educational Group—that would take over the school, although it is not clear who chose it. The matter is not yet resolved, since each side has accused the other of intimidation.

In the comments section after the blog post, Caroline Grannan of the San Francisco Examiner had a lot to say.

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 -- though the reporter didn't grasp that this was the lead and buried it -- 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.)

In the wake of that obvious failure, demonstrating McKinley parents' lack of support for and interest in the Celerity charter -- and the negative publicity over the fact that the McKinley fiasco was orchestrated by Parent Revolution, not parents -- Parent Revolution has actually quietly shifted its tactics. It's now running around vaguely organizing "parents' unions" at schools, with no explicit goal, and has stopped talking about Parent Trigger petitions.

(Of course, it's possible that Parent Rev is waging more stealth petition campaigns under deep cover, but that's what got it such bad PR at McKinley.)

Comment section

And more. The Los Angeles Times had an article in January of this year about the mess that was made in that situation.

A Better Parent Trigger

The first parent trigger petition, at McKinley Elementary School in Compton, offered an example of how the process shouldn't work. The signature drive was held in secret, to avoid a backlash from the school, but with the decision pre-made for parents that the school would be taken over by charter operator Celerity Educational Group. There was no public discussion of parents' options or rights. McKinley is not a school that has resisted change; though low-performing, it has dramatically raised test scores in recent years. Some parents complained afterwards that they didn't understand the petition they were signing; others accused school personnel of threatening and harassing them to get them to rescind their signatures. Meanwhile, the school district has set up a process for verifying the signatures that is harder on parents and more intrusive than is reasonably necessary.

I disagree about the phrase "more intrusive than reasonably necessary." I think when astroturf groups, fake groups misrepresent themselves to parents...that a much stricter process is necessary.

The fact that so many are/were manipulated into thinking that the Parents Revolution was truly a group of activist parents shows how easily people can be fooled. It was actually set up by charter companies and other "reformers" as a way to get more charter schools.

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