Friday, March 23, 2012

Parent trigger founder: What happened in Florida ‘only a temporary setback’

Gloria Romero, head of DFER-CA and author of that state's pioneering Parent Trigger bill, comments on the defeat of a similar bill in FL:

If we believe that strong families, parents and neighborhoods are at the heart of American society, Florida just lost a precious opportunity to empower revitalization. No neighborhood is truly successful if its schools don't work. The traditional education model strips away the authority of parents to do much about these schools when it simply assigns children to schools according to zip code. But because education is such a fundamental part of life, stripping away this power and authority has implications far beyond just education. It robs parents and families of a feeling that they have influence more broadly on their community.

That's why parent trigger legislation is so important.

It restores the ability for parents to organize, collaborate, discuss and take meaningful and purposeful actions to improve their lives. Being able to influence directly how their children are educated and feeling responsible in a substantive way for the outcomes is transformative.

I fear what we witnessed Friday in Florida is the status quo fighting back against a reduction of their authority over families and parents. Let's be frank: To every other part of public education, children function as a debit card — directly bringing in the cold, hard cash that keeps their jobs in place. Despite all the apparent concern about privatizing Florida schools, parents are the only group in public education without a financial conflict of interest. They just want what is best for their children and what will open the greatest access to the American Dream.

I wrote the nation's first parent trigger law in California. I acted because I was frustrated with the lack of any urgency in turning around chronically underperforming and failing schools. As a Democratic senator, I was sick and tired of the status quo education interests dictating education policy — and of too many of my colleagues timidly succumbing to powerful political interests. Florida just demonstrated legislators can succumb on a bipartisan basis.

Nevertheless, I am confident this is not the final word on the parent trigger in Florida. Just look around the country at how parents are standing up, sadly in some cases even going to jail, for the right to educate their children. A Connecticut mother led the movement to pass the country's second Parent Trigger Act. Parental empowerment groups may have made their first splash in the water in California, but they are appearing across the nation at an increasing pace, demanding to reclaim the authority and responsibility for their children's education.

This is only a temporary setback.


Parent trigger founder: What happened in Florida 'only a temporary setback'

By Gloria Romero
On March 13, 2012

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