This is a must-read EdWeek article by Diane Ravitch with regard to the trickery behind the “parent trigger” law, and the recent decision by the U.S. Conference of Mayors to endorse a boilerplate bill pushed in four states by a hard-line right-wing group (ALEC). She notes that not one of the charter laws in CA, CT, MS, and TX has resulted in the success conversion of a public school into a charter:
I wonder how the mayors would react to a similar proposal to allow citizens to seize control of the public housing projects they live in or their local firehouse or police station, if they are dissatisfied with them. Perhaps they should also be permitted to take control of the sanitation trucks and give the jobs to one another.
It is frankly bizarre to pass a law allowing 51 percent of the present users of a public facility or public service to seize control and hand it off to a private corporation. The public paid for it, why should the people who use it this year claim the power to give it away? What about the rights of those who plan to attend the school in years to come? Supposing next year half of those who signed the petition are no longer parents in the school that they privatized? To me, this is akin to saying that those riding on a public bus should have the power to “seize control” and give it to a private bus company.
I wonder how the mayors will react when Occupy Wall Street begins seizing control of public parks and other public facilities. No, wait, no need to wonder. We know how they reacted. They sent in riot police to clear the parks and streets.
There’s an interesting parallelism that Dr. Ravitch points out here: whether it’s mayors taking over city school districts in the fashion to fix “failing schools” or the idea that 51% of the parents at a struggling school are pointed down a narrow chute where a charter school conversion is the only choice they ever seem to have — both acts undermine small-d democratic and local governance of a precious common good like our nation’s public schools.
Why the distrust of all the ways we have to maintain oversight of our public schools? Public meetings, public disclosures, publicly elected school board officials, approval of funding through the legislative process…why is giving up all of that better for school systems, or able to produce better educated students? Corporate charters especially are notoriously secretive about their balance sheets, and lack all the parent governance mechanisms like advisory councils and site councils.
Charters disrupt the democratic process but don’t provide an improved outcome for kids. How is that a good deal for anyone but charter operators?
Hence, the “parent tricker.”