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Update: Duncan Endorses Parent Trigger -- Sort Of

image from laschoolreport.comAt an education conference in Burlingame earlier today, Obama education secretary Arne Duncan gave a muddled semi-endorsement of the controversial parent trigger law in California.

Specifically, Duncan described the trigger as "an important tool" for parent involvement -- but not the only or even the most important one.

Duncan's answer will likely disappoint trigger proponents and opponents alike.

The issue came up when Ben Austin, head of Parent Revolution, rose at the end of a long interview to ask the Secretary his position on the trigger.

Three years ago, Duncan gave a vague statement of support when the first parent trigger petition was taking place -- and has remained mum on the topic since then.  So has his boss.

Claiming a lack of familiarity with the California law -- and reminding listeners that the Florida version of the law failed to win legislative approval earlier this week, Duncan agreed that the trigger was one of several parent leadership strategies that could be used to help improve low-performing schools.

There are lots of things parents can do, said Duncan, and "parent triggers are a piece of that."

"That was a non-endorsement, endorsement," tweeted T. Patrick Yocum, about Duncan's response.

Apparently unsatisfied with his response, interviewer Laurene Powell Jobs asked the Secretary what other kinds of things might have the same impact as the trigger.

Other parent leadership strategies, according to Duncan, include pressing administrators to make schools more available after school hours and turning off the TV at home during homework time.

Duncan's second answer wasn't much better than his first, according to some observers.

"Laurene Powell jobs pushes on parent trigger question but not too much clarity from Duncan," noted Huffington Post education reporter Joy Resmovits, via Twitter. Her description of Duncan's answer:  "Vague, vague, vague."

Parent Revolution's Austin stood at the microphone during Duncan's initial response and second answer, looking somewhat disappointed as he returned to his chair.

While opposed by many teachers, unions, and progressives because it can lead to teachers being fired and a school being converted into a non-union charter, the trigger is supported by some reform-minded Democratic lawmakers, including LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Congressman George Miller, head of the House education committee in Washington.

Cross-posted from LA School Report.



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I appreciate you posting about this issue, Alexander.

I just want to clarify that while many "teachers, unions, and progressives" may oppose Parent Trigger legislation simply because it can be converted into a "non-union charter," there are numerous other issues at play that inspire opposition above and beyond the simple (and misleadingly simplistic) union / non-union dichotomy.

As a parent, taxpayer, and educator (no longer in the classroom, and never a member of a union) my concerns -- along with many others I stood along side, democrat and republican alike -- contested myriad elements of the Parent Trigger legislation. My four main concerns last year when it first came up are posted here (and remain mostly representative of my concerns during FL's legislative session this year): http://ecologyofeducation.net/wsite/?p=3895

An additional concern I have is as a tax payer. I do not want my hard earned tax dollars being taken not only from the classroom, but from our county, state and potentially country (in the case of multi-national companies that dabble in charter management stateside) when for-profit charter management companies skim 10 - 15% off of every dime received by the school in question.

I would urge you to consider some of the additional dynamics at play in reporting on the parent trigger in the future. You might consider reading some of the pieces by Paula Dockery, former FL State Senator (R), to better understand why this isn't simply a union vs. non-union or public school vs. charter school issue.


Jason Flom
Director of Learning Platforms
Q.E.D. Foundation

Duncan's answer will also disappoint proponents of leadership and moral courage.

What is the Parent Trigger?

What is the Parent Trigger?

Jason's answer is far more incisive and fair-minded than Russo's. Russo must assert in every post that opponents of reforms--no matter how ineffectual or problematic the reforms--are of necessity opposing for selfish, unionistic reasons.

Because in Russo's world, no reforms are ever bad.

Russo is to education thought as David Barton is to history.

Parent triggers may be a good thing but the best that I could imagine would just holding the local government accountable. Schools are not a Federal issue it should remain a State issue. Maybe the best thing that could be done is to get rid of the UNions so that teachers and faculty actually have to work to keep their jobs which would mean there would not be a reason for parent triggers.

David C.'s comment raises the important issue of federal vs. state governance issues. As I see it, we benefit when the federal government can add value to our children's educations; but when the feds aren't adding value, they should stay out of matters that are often better managed at more local levels. A significant problem right now in U.S. education is that the federal government is not, on balance, adding significant value to our efforts to improve our children's lives through their educations. If they were to start doing so, I would support more federal help; but because of the current federal leadership's policies and performance -- for example, being six years overdue in correcting the mistake of No Child Left Behind, or pushing policies that are being shown in Chicago to be unable to prevent the catastrophic meltdown of life in a major American city -- I cannot do so; and reading accounts of the possibly corrupting money flows now distorting the New Schools Venture Fund simply reinforces my opinion that education reform in the United States has gone badly off track, and may leave parents concerned about their children's educations and futures with no choice but to abandon our states' education systems, invest in private schooling, and vote to cut taxes being wasted on state educations providing too little of value to us.

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