By Amanda Litvinov
Laws that allow private companies to manipulate communities into turning over their neighborhood schools have been defeated in recent weeks in Colorado, Georgia and Oklahoma.
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Bearing the falsely empowering term “parent trigger,” such laws play on the desires of concerned parents to improve a struggling school. But once enough parents sign onto a petition demanding reform, they are cut out of the process.
Parents in Adelanto, California, learned this lesson the hard way when a group called Parent Revolution parachuted into their community and misled parents into thinking that signing their petition calling for reform would improve their children’s neighborhood school.
“The parents that came into contact with us were not aware that the intention was to make it a charter school,” said educator LaNita Dominique. “They felt that they had been harassed and misled, and went so far as to rescind their signatures.”
Lawsuits ensued after Adelanto parents fought back in an unsuccessful bid to save their neighborhood school. But the lesson was not lost on parents and lawmakers in other states:
- COLORADO: Parents and the education community were unified in fighting against a bill that would have allowed a majority of parents at any school labeled “failing” to force its closure or conversion to a charter. Two House Republicans joined all six Democrats on the state’s House Education Committee in stopping the bill.
- GEORGIA: For the second year in a row, Georgia legislators listened to parents who said in no uncertain terms: Don’t pass a parent trigger law. While most of the state’s education groups remained neutral on the bill, the Georgia Association of Educators worked hard to amplify those parents’ voices and stand up for students.
- OKLAHOMA: The Oklahoma Education Association joined forces with the PTA to make sure lawmakers understood the dangers of allowing outside groups to parachute into a community to parent trigger laws before they voted on April 1. The bill did not advance, but could be picked up again in the 2014 session.
Not all state legislatures are standing on the side of parents and students, however. Florida lawmakers have shown a shocking disregard for the will of the citizens of the state. Despite a sound defeat during the 2012 legislative session thanks in large part to some very vocal moms, proponents resurrected the bill—for which no Florida parent group has voiced support—in 2013.
“There’s no bigger waste of taxpayer time and treasure than lawmakers who refuse to respect the will of the people,” wrote Kathleen Oropeza, co-founder of FundEducationNow.org, in the Gainesville Sun. She estimates that groups who oppose the parent trigger law represent 1 million parents.
“It’s a corporate empowerment bill,” Hillsborough PTA president Melissa Erickson told ABC News.
“The only power that parents are given in this bill is the actual ability to pull the trigger. Once the trigger is pulled, they lose almost all control.”
Help spread the truth about parent trigger laws. Share this video by the Education Opportunity Network about the Adelanto, California community that lost its neighborhood school after Parent Revolution came to town.