By Cui Tiankai |
There's a need for policies that give parents, teachers, and members of the broader community real power to improve struggling schools. And there's a need for laws that require schools, districts, and states to provide meaningful information about how well we are preparing our children to participate in our economy and—more importantly—our democracy. But so-called parent trigger laws don't fit the bill.
These are urgent questions because there is a tremendous amount at stake—for every public school student and for our nation as a whole. Whether we effectively educate our young people will determine whether they can create and secure the jobs needed to support not only their families, but also the largest generation of retirees the nation has ever seen. And the right kinds of education policies can encourage broader, deeper and more meaningful participation in America's civic and political life. There are also important questions of racial and economic equity in play. Poor children and children of color are more likely to live in communities where decades of disinvestment have led to high rates of poverty, pervasive unemployment, and a range of threats to health. They are also more likely to attend schools that lack necessary resources and have worse outcomes. These sorts of structural issues matter, and when we willfully ignore them, we misunderstand our problems and prescribe solutions that are destined to fail.
Parent trigger laws pretend to meet the very real need for more and better opportunities for parents to work alongside teachers and other community members to help improve schools. But often these laws put forward charter schools as the solution—despite the lack of evidence that charters as a whole outperform traditional public schools, and without providing for real and lasting parent and community participation in reform. In doing so, they take some of our most important local institutions out of the public sphere and entrust them to private charter management organizations that lack transparency. And we advance a larger agenda of privatization that threatens to undermine hard-won victories in the areas of civil rights, workers' rights, and good government.
There is another way. We can give parents, teachers, and others in the community real power to develop new visions for our schools, to translate those visions into plans and to see that those plans are carried out. The truth is that we can do far better than parent trigger, and we must.
About Brittny Saunders Senior Staff Attorney for Center for Popular Democracy
Melissa J. Erickson Principal in Fund Education Now
Randi Weingarten President of the American Federation of Teachers
Leigh Dingerson Senior Consultant with the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University
Michelle Rhee CEO at StudentsFirst
Nina Rees President and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools