Testimony opposing LD 1424: An Act to Enhance Parental Roles in Education Choice.

May 2, 2011

Senator Langley, Representative Richardson, and Members of the Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs:

My name is Judy Sproule and I reside in Trenton. I am vice-chair of the Mount Desert Island Regional School System, chair of its Legislative Sub-Committee, and chair of the Trenton School Committee.

I join my colleague, Brian Hubbell, on behalf of the Mount Desert Island Regional School System, in opposition to LD 1424: An Act to Enhance Parental Roles in Education Choice. I will not reiterate the points he has made, but would like to provide you with background information on this bill.

The Parent Trigger was signed into California law in early 2010, ostensibly to advance the state’s standing in Race to the Top. It was conceived by a group called Parent Revolution, which was founded by the Green Dot charter school chain, and is funded by familiar names currently driving educational policy such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wasserman Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation.

With the California law in place, Parent Revolution then looked for a vulnerable school in a vulnerable district to target with a Parent Trigger campaign. It identified McKinley Elementary school in Compton, near Los Angeles, and sent paid organizers out into Compton to knock on doors in search of McKinley parents. The signature drive was held in secret, to avoid a backlash from the school, but with the decision pre-made for parents that the school would be taken over by charter operator Celerity Educational Group. There was no public discussion of parents' options or rights. There were no open meetings, presentations of the various options the parents could have chosen other than converting to a charter school, discussions with the school district, opportunities for debate and rebuttal, or the usual messy interactions of democracy. In one of those messy interactions that transpired later, it was reported that hundreds of angry parents said they were tricked into signing the Parent Trigger petitions.1

You also need to look at this bill in the context of No Child Left Behind. While we hope and expect there will be changes made to this law, in its current state it provides for options in school restructuring to occur after 4 years of not making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for schools receiving Title 1 funding.  Failing to make AYP can be for a variety of reasons having nothing to do with academic performance, such as attendance, number of students tested, or lack of performance of a subgroup of students. This program is deeply flawed, but allowing intercession by any entity after only one year of not making AYP, as LD 1424 does, would invite disaster not even NCLB contemplates. Even the California law restricts action to schools meeting specific criteria similar to the Federal law, not just missing AYP in a single year.

Finally, LD 1424 overrides our democratic and efficient system of accountability. Just as you are elected to represent your districts, our school districts elect board members. They are public servants, accountable to the people they represent, doing their work in public, for the public. Any one who wants to question the status quo only has to engage a board member in conversion, attend a meeting, or stand for election to a seat. Our schools serve our communities, are supported by them, and define them. Parents are a subset of the school community and everyone must work together to ensure the best results.

I urge you to vote Ought Not to Pass on LD 1424.

Thank you for your consideration.

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1excerpted from http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com/2011/02/grannan-powerful-parent-trigger.html