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Reform: Nine Reasons "Everyone" Hates The Parent Trigger

Christmas-Tree Here are some of the reasons why the coverage of the parent trigger in Compton is skewing against the petitioners who want to do a conversion turnaround and hand the building over to Celerity:   (1) Turnarounds of any kind are high-risk, uncertain propositions that cause a lot of displacement and collateral damage.  (2) People -- educators -- are really angry and feel scapegoated by the recent reform trends (value added, removing charter caps, etc).  (3) Current reforms haven't (yet?) proven to be any more successful or effective than NCLB or anything that's come before; there's little to show for RTTT etc. (4) People -- educators -- are feeling empowered by the emergence of champions like Diane Ravitch and the defeat of opponents like Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein.  (5) The economy is in the tank and everyone's worried about jobs, mass layoffs, etc.  (6) Parent Revolution and its head, Ben Austin, don't seem to have the personal authenticity and track record to persuade skeptics to give them a chance.  (7) Burned in the past or mad at the LA Weekly, the LA Times has decided to emphasize the issues raised by parent trigger opponents rather than the other way around. (8) Direct democracy -- elected school councils in Chicago or state referenda in CA -- is a messy business that's nearly always manipulated by organizers and advocates.  (9) Displaced rage against the holiday season.

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I would add that it is too easy to get people to sign a petition to generically improve the schools without really understanding what it is about.

I would also add that this legislation is heavily sponsored by for profit educational groups and is truly not a grass roots effort.

(1) Collateral Damage - The existing system has created decades of "collateral damage," and it is time to change the dynamic. We need to take power away from unions, and the "system" and give it to parents and citizens. It won't be perfect, but it's nearly impossible they do worse and very likely that they do better.

As to your point about turnarounds and transformations, I'm in full agreement with you. They are expensive and mostly fruitless. That's why Heartland's Policy Brief on the Parent Trigger called for more robust uses of parental empowerment.

(2) Scapegoated - I feel for the plight of teachers, but only up to a point. Those that live by the Union model will die by it. If you have one blanket contract that ties everyone to one "time-served" seniority-based system, and fill that system with anyone that can maintain a pulse through the pre-tenure hazing project, don't expect to have the same stature as Finnish teachers do.

Furthermore, the rights of entire class of under-served children and over-taxed citizens far outweigh the rights of a powerful and protected class of teachers or administrators. Citizen anger is more righteous than anger generated by the system that has been very well protected and well compensated for decades.

(3) Reforms Failed? Fair minded people might concede that no reform is a silver bullet. However, that only goes to support the case for the Parent Trigger. We have decades of increased spending and attenuated reforms (limited choice, limited charters, caps, etc.). What we haven't done is change the political dynamic. It is time to empower an entirely different group and dis-empower the people who got us here. The Trigger starts that process. It isn't a silver bullet, but it gives parents more ammunition than they've had yet.

(4) Ravitch v. Klein & Rhee - Diane Ravitich lives in a "Finnish Model" thought-world that bears no resemblance to the the sea of mediocrity created by our district-based, union-driven, spending-engorged “Government Education Complex”.

If we split the US at the Mississippi and made Ravitch be Queen of the East to impose her system, allowed me to be King of the West to impose the Swedish "money follow the child" system, I'd be more than happy to measure the outcomes. Neither of those thought-worlds are going to happen. If Finland is the answer, let Diane try and persuade her new Union Friends to impose that level of content and performance on this union workforce.

Ravitch has simply given up, while Klein and Rhee are still in the fight.

(5) Jobs and Economy - The economy is the number one reason to support transformational reforms like the Parent Trigger, Choice, and Digital Learning.

The current system is not only a failure, but it can't succeed at any funding level because its entire structure is designed to reshuffle deck chairs while adding payroll. They've had 25-30 years on the gravy train. The fastest way to increase educational employment and dynamism is to kill the current employment model and create a vast new array of content providers and delivery systems.

(6) Authenticity!? - I don't know about you, but if authenticity is the standard I'll take Ben Austin over Randi Weingarten any day.

I've met enough oily suburban superintendents to know lack of authenticity when I see it. Austin comes across to me as a dedicated reformer, and I frankly could care less who funds him.

We get that "Who's funding Heartland" question all the time, and it's about as lame an attack as there is. We've been as open an honest about our reform agenda, and we love the Parent Trigger. If a group of philanthropists are out there trying to change the education system, good for them. They should call me, and I'll tell them where they can send us a check.

We have been on the education reform issue from our creation, and we've been right. Kudos to Ben, Gabe and the REAL progressives who understand that the current dynamic can't work.

(7) The Media - Any organization or outlet that believes the current system can be "reformed" doesn't understand the system, nor politics, nor economics.

(8) Direct Democracy - This is probably the most effective critique, and even it falls short when compared to the existing system. "Manipulation" is exactly what has happened with the current system, which has been influenced from the beginning by powerful, organized, and self-interested forces.

Along come a few reformers, using the Parent Trigger and "community organizing" to "manipulate" the electorate, parents, and citizens in FAVOR of transforming schools, and the incumbent system starts crying foul over tactics they've used for decades. Deal with it.
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In closing, outrage against the existing system it is justified. The good news is that it just may be on its last legs.

If anyone living in 1985 had said that the USSR would cease to exist in five years, they would have been laughed at.

I've been saying that that if our education system - the Government Education Complex - falls, it will fall quickly. It will appear unassailable up until it simply collapses of its own weight, expense, and internal contradictions. I think that is starting to happen, and I think the Parent Trigger is an idea that will accelerate that process. That is why it deserves support.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

I disagree that coverage is skewing against the Parent Revolution paid petitioners. The initial news coverage was highly favorable to the Parent Trigger -- headlines all around the nation declared "Parents Pull the Trigger on Failing School," a take that certainly put the move in a positive light.

It is news when 200 people opposing the charter show up at a heated school board meeting, and that news is starting to surface. But in my professional opinion as a retired daily-newspaper journalist, any news organization that does NOT follow up its initial "Parents Pull the Trigger on Failing School" story with the account of the anti-charter sentiment at the meeting is derelict -- and most have not. So actually, the news coverage is skewed TOWARD the Parent Revolution paid petitioners.

Some of those 9 reasons are reasonably on target, if not the way I'd write them. I would disagree that ANY kind of turnaround results in displacement and collateral damage, but I certainly agree that THIS effort would -- though I would place a large bet against its being a successful turnaround. Perhaps the charter operator Celerity is committed, or claims to be, to enrolling all the students at the school no matter what their challenges or needs (though you know as well as I do how "counseling out" works). But it has not made that commitment with the schools it currently runs, so it has no track record that would provide any confidence in its ability to succeed at McKinley Elementary.

So Bruno Behrend, you liken our public education system to the USSR, you support eliminating it, you believe the Parent Trigger will make that happen sooner, and you applaud Ben Austin and Gabe Rose for helping to eliminate our public education system. Am I summing up your comments accurately?

What's your take in relation to Bruno's, Alex? Are there wolves lurking around in sheep's clothing?

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