Pro-school choice advocates revere it. Charter school critics fear it. It is known as the Parent Trigger Law and, on Wednesday, April 15, Senate Bill 14 (SB 14), passed overwhelmingly in the Texas State Senate chamber. The bill carried with a bipartisan vote of 25-6.
SB 14 will allow parents to remove their children from failing schools quicker, reducing the amount of time they have to wait to petition for either closing or converting a failing school to a charter school, from five to three years. It has been championed by Education Committee Chair, State Senator Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood). It has also been an education priority of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick for some time.
“No parent should have to wait five years before being allowed to intervene in their child’s under-performing school,” said Patrick in a press release that followed the favorable vote. “Parent empowerment is key to success and our children deserve a better education.”
The bill will encourage parents to participate in meaningful action to improve failing campuses, the release also stated. It will give parents more control over their child’s future, school’s direction and community success, added the Lt. Governor. He congratulated Taylor for his leadership and for “putting our children’s education first.”
In a statement on April 16, Taylor told Breitbart Texas, “We must make improvements in the existing parent empowerment law to provide a pathway for parents to advocate on behalf of their child. This will empower a majority of parents to compel meaningful action to improve individual campuses.”
Anti-school choice activists and unions are already lamenting SB 14 as an affront to their existence. The Texas American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the state’s wing of the nation’s second largest teachers’ union is calling on its membership to stop the bill as it advances next to the Texas House.
Texas AFT issued a statement in which they called everyone else in sight a “special interest” group. They claimed that the California “prototype for SB 14 was created through well-funded efforts by outside interests to get parent signatures on petitions for charter takeover of neighborhood public schools.”
That rhetoric came from progressive icon Diane Ravitch who slammed the creator of the 2010 California Parent Trigger Law, former State Senator Gloria Romero. Last year, Ravitch insinuated that it was not Romero but “a conservative think-tank” that wrote the state’s Parent Trigger Law.
“Sadly, it seemed unfathomable to (Ravitch) that a Latina senator from East Los Angeles could have written it and mustered its passage on behalf of parents fighting for education opportunities for their children. I’ve written Ravitch setting the record straight; to this day, she has never responded,” wrote Romero in the Orange County Register.
Romero also described Ravitch as walking lockstep with the National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers and California Teachers Association in decrying parental access to school choice, demonizing charter schools and resisting any reforms to tenure and teacher dismissal laws.”
Texas AFT lifted a “Ravitch-ism,” sniping SB 14 as a “parent tricker”. Like in California, they are claiming that Texas Parent Trigger “organizers” are outsider groups funded by Parent Revolution, allegedly wealthy Dallas and Houston based business backers.
Parent Revolution is based in Los Angeles. They call themselves a grassroots community organizing effort “to transform underperforming public schools by empower parents to advocate for what is good for children, not adults.”
Texas AFT failed to mention that Romero was a Democrat. She fought to empower parents against the powerful California Teachers Association (CTA). The California version of the law allows groups that gather signatures from 51 percent or more of a school’s parents to force changes originally set down in the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.
They also omitted that the Parent Trigger Law has taken a hit in Los Angeles Unified (LAUSD), one of the eight large California Office to Reform Education (CORE) school districts granted NCLB waivers by the Obama administration to alleviate a bit of the accountability pressure in some of its worst schools. Coupled with the state dumping its annual high-stakes Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) for the Common Core’s Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC), LAUSD has been relieved from the requirement to take the corrective actions that would lead to a “school to be ‘triggered’ under the … Act,” Romero explained.
California Teacher Unions oppose the Parent Trigger Law. In 2012, National Review described CTA’s unbridled influence, calling them “one of the largest political donors in the state, and when the group stands up against legislation, it usually dies or has a very hard road to success.”
Besides California and Texas, states with Parent Trigger Laws include Louisiana, Mississippi, Connecticut, Indiana and Ohio.
Texas AFT insists it has a better choice than school choice – community-based schools. That is the the Fed Led Ed vision of AFT president Randi Weingarten. This push has been underway for some time in three major school districts – Houston, Dallas and Austin.
Last year, Breitbart Texas reported on anti-school choice special interest group Save Texas Schools and Austin-based Allen Weeks, who was featured alongside AFT’s Weingarten on a Reclaiming the Promise through Community Schools SXSWedu panel. It was all part of that promise of public education – labor, government, school and community leaders.
In early March, 2014, Weingarten told an SXSWedu audience that she “had been in Austin since January with Weeks to work on a “community schools strategy”, the same strategy New York Governor Cuomo executive ordered into aligning education, health and social services into the one convenient hub — the public school.
Despite all the histrionics, charter schools are part of the public school system, although they operate without teacher unions and their accountability to federal and state mandates varies from state to state. Even Weingarten attempted but failed at operating an AFT unionized charter school in Brooklyn, New York back in 2005.
Some oppose charter schools because of their appointed and not publicly elected school boards, which does have its downsides. A fair criticism from opponents is that they feel that the democratic process is being trampled upon without the act of voting. In Texas, publicly elected school board members join the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB), a lobbyist organization. They boast that they represent the largest group of publicly elected officials in the state — more than 1,000 local school boards of which, they are supposed to represent the interests of the children. TASB states that one of their primary purposes is to represent school boards when lawmakers make decisions affecting Texas school districts.
While there has been a lot of focus on lobbyist conflicts-of-interest on the state board and legislative levels, the issues trickle down to local schools where administrators belong to TASB’s counterpart, the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA), defined by BallotPedia as “a government sector lobbying association” funded by taxpayer dollars. Disengenous and divided education loyalties are rampant, often placing lobbyists right in the center of the public schools.
Those state senators who voted against SB 14 were Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio), Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio), Kirk Watson (D-Austin), John Whitmire (D-Houston), and Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo).
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutofTheBoxMom.