In this clip you get a look at Ben Austin. I've been following this story from afar, but it's time to get it up. I feel for these parents because they want the best for their kids, but it appears a trap may have been set for them by astroturfers. I'm still taking in the reports so please add to the conversation.
Building genuine parent engagement is a critical element of improving our schools. Two-way “conversation” and not the all too common one-way “communication” between schools and parents needs to be developed through strategies such as teacher home visits to build relationships and working together to address the two-thirds of outside school factors that affect student achievement (health care, affordable housing, neighborhood safety).
The so-called “parent trigger” law in California, which allows a majority of parents (from a school or from their “feeder” schools) to sign a petition that forces a school to be converted into a charter, is not one of those genuine parent engagement strategies.
The recent effort to apply this law for the first time in Compton highlights all the reasons why it is an unwise strategy for students, families, teachers, and administrators.
When organizers are interested in helping community residents build leadership skills, develop genuine ownership of the group they are creating, and leave a lasting organization for the long-term, they do not work “under the radar” as the Parent Revolution (the group behind the law) organizers did in Compton (their first contact with school officials apparently occurred when the petitions were delivered)
Unions were not begun, nor led, by leaders of groups that want to start competitive companies (the chair of Parent Revolution’s board is the head of charter operator Green Dot Schools). They are also not funded by groups that want to do so (Parent Revolution’s primary funders are the same ones who are the biggest funders of charter schools).
Parents are very susceptible to charter school pitchmen selling themselves as agents of reform. The LA Times has a take on this. Regulations aren't enough to fix the sloppy law that created the parent trigger
This week, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that some parents are withdrawing their signatures, saying that they were intimidated or misled by Parent Revolution, the Los Angeles-based group that organized the petition drive.
The Los Angeles Times reports:
"They told me the petition was to beautify the school," said Karla Garcia, whose two children attend McKinley. "They are misinforming the parents, so I revoked my signature."
On Friday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a supporter of the parent-trigger effort, took the other side, condemning alleged "intimidation tactics" by charter opponents at McKinley.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa weighed in with similar views. The mayor was flanked by parents and petition organizers Friday as he visited the home of a Compton petition signer to praise the effort and condemn what he described as harassment by opponents."
Similar "parent-trigger" laws are being considered in other states. Meanwhile, the ability of charters to "solve" the problems of the low-performing public schools remains far from clear. [Read Kevin Drum for a good backgrounder on charter schools.]
Kevin Drum writes that so far charter schools aren't performing very well in New York.: Bad News for Charter Schools
Statewide in New York, about 50% of high school graduates are college ready. In charter schools, about 20% of graduates are college ready. This isn't an apples-to-apples comparison, since we don't know whether the charter schools had the same quality of incoming students as the public schools. Most likely they didn't, as the lower graduation rate shows. Still, that's a helluva gap. It's not good news for the charter school movement