Charter school referendum preamble is Parent Trigger jargon


A pressure group for privatizing schools is the origin of the jargon in the charter school referendum on the November Georgia ballot. And yes, it’s tied to ALEC.

In Our south Georgia school tax dollars would go to Virginia rich people, Karen Noll asserted “…the wording that is on the preamble comes straight out of ALEC documents….” The preamble to the charter school amendment on the November ballot reads:

Provides for improving student achievement and parental involvement through more public charter school options.

Where else is that wording found? Combinations of the three phrases “student achievement”, “parental involvement”, and “charter school” actually are not very common, according to google. But the Parent Trigger wrote in Empowering Parents,

Policy initiatives that empower parents are likely to increase parental involvement and satisfaction and raise student achievement by inviting parents into the process.

What process?

The designers of the California Parent Trigger made a grave mistake by leaving tepid reform modules in the bill and allowing districts to override the parents’ reform choice.

The Georgia constitutional amendment wouldn’t leave school districts any ability to decide anything.

What would the parents’ reform choice be?

It is important to present parents with truly empowering choices that will dramatically reshape schools. Tired, failed reforms such as those mandated at the federal level as “turnarounds” simply increase bureaucracy and further burden taxpayers. Parent Trigger bills by their nature are mechanisms for flexibility and localized control, so lawmakers should include modules to remedy all sorts of school situations. For example, a rural school would benefit far more from the option to convert to a charter school than from a provision for school closure or public school choice. Conversely, voucher programs or leadership replacement might make the most sense in other settings.

With that in mind, a parent trigger bill should include at least two modules: (1) a school-specific voucher program and (2) conversion to a charter school. Bills without at least one of these modules will not truly empower parents.

So “choice” means two paths to privatized schools: charter schools, or vouchers to private schools. Either path would override the local school board which is elected by the local people. Interesting definition of “choice”.

But what’s this got to do with ALEC? In The Heartland Institute’s Policty Documents, Marc Oestreich wrote 8 February 2011, Research & Commentary: Indiana Parent Trigger,

ALEC Model Bill: The Parent Trigger
Written and introduced by The Heartland Institute, this American Legislative Exchange Council bill outlines a recommended Parent Trigger policy. This is a useful guide in developing Parent Trigger legislation.

The included link no longer works, but the above quote spells out the connection between the Parent Trigger and ALEC.

In ALEC Exposed’s list of ALEC education model bills, the very first one is the Parent Trigger Act, which begins with this summary:

The Parent Trigger places democratic control into the hands of parents at school level. Parents can, with a simple majority, opt to usher in one of three choice-based options of reform: (1) transforming their school into a charter school, (2) supplying students from that school with a 75 percent per pupil cost voucher, or (3) closing the school.

That’s clearly what the Parent Trigger website was recommending.

More about the connection between Parent Trigger and ALEC by Molly Redden yesterday in The New Republic, Three Things You Need to Know About Parent Trigger Laws,

Where parents fit in varies wildly, but many veterans of the two Californian fights now testify to feeling like they were duped into signing over their children’s school to a charter school corporation, without understanding that there was no alternative option. And that, of course, is the worry attached to Won’t Back Down—more duping, set to the rousing strains of Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger.”

The Georgia referendum goes farther than the Parent Trigger model bill, by doing away with any messy pretence of democratic control, and instead putting school privatization decisions in the hands of a state-wide appointed board.

Do you want an unelected board in Atlanta telling us we have to siphon off public school funds to start a charter school, and then spend even more per pupil on it by adding funds from our local sales or property taxes? If you don’t want that, ignore the promise-the-sky preamble and vote No on the charter school referendum in November.



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