Florida parent trigger debate didn’t bring out best from established parent groups

Amidst all the inflated rhetoric that defined the debate over Florida’s parent trigger bill, one persistent claim stood out as particularly jarring: the notion that low-income parents don’t know how to act in the best interests of their children.

That much of this language came from white, suburban parent activists makes it all the more disconcerting.

The parent trigger is “just a method for uninformed, inactive parents to be used to shut schools down,” said Rita Solnet, a Palm Beach County parent who co-founded Parents Across America.

“It uses a parent’s love to pull the trigger and pass all that they hold dear into the hands of for-profit corporations eager to peel off a chunk of every child’s per pupil funding for themselves,” said Linda Kobert, a co-founder of Fund Education Now.

After the parent trigger went down in flames Friday, the Orlando Sentinel continued with the same theme.

“This bad bill would have cued the stampede of for-profit charter school companies looking to sweet talk frustrated parents and turn a fast buck,” its editorial board wrote.

There’s no doubt that if one of the biggest newspapers in Florida suggested that the savvy, passionate, well-meaning parents behind the Florida PTA, Parents Across America and Fund Education Now had been “sweet talked” into their opposition by the teachers unions and the Democratic Party — and let’s face it, the links between those groups are obvious — they’d be ripped to shreds.

But somehow, critics of the trigger bill could suggest something similar about low-income parents, again and again, and not get called on it. And it is hard to miss that many of these are parents of color, and that few, if any, were part of the public face of the opposition.

I’m not saying the trigger bill was perfect. I’m not even saying it was good enough to vote for. I think there were legitimate concerns. I also worry that instead of shaking things up too much, it would in the end do too little for schools and families who need way more help than, frankly, either Democrats or Republicans seem willing to give them. But I can understand why there would be sincere support for it — and support that has absolutely nothing to do with privatization or corporate takeovers or any of the poll-tested buzzwords that critics employed.

Who, really, could be against the idea of giving low-income parents more leverage to make their schools — their public schools — better? It’s true that many low-income parents are not as involved in their schools as we all would like, for complicated reasons that are ignored or dismissed or downright twisted. But if something like a parent trigger could inspire them to step up, why would anyone object? Don’t we want more parents who keep an eagle eye on their schools? Who raise holy heck when the district tries to pull a fast one with a merry-go-round teacher or a dud of a principal?

Don’t we want to see more inner-city parents follow the lead of those wonderfully hovering, take-no-guff moms in the ‘burbs?

As for what happened in Florida, I can only shake my head at the rhetoric. Why would middle or upper-income parents assume their low-income peers would automatically choose the charter option? And not only that, but then go with a lame, for-profit charter with a terrible track record (and there are some of those) rather than a high-performing charter that’s demonstrated it knows how to move the needle with low-income kids (and there are some of those, too)?

I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know how it has became so starkly, surreally us-vs.-them.

But I know that kind of talk won’t get us rowing in the same direction. Or make the outcomes better for our kids.

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BY Ron Matus

Ron Matus is director for policy and public affairs at Step Up for Students and a former editor of redefinED. He joined Step Up in February 2012 after 20 years in journalism, including eight years as an education reporter with the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times). Ron can be reached at rmatus@stepupforstudents.org or (727) 451-9830. Follow him on Twitter @RonMatus1 and on facebook at facebook.com/redefinedonline.


Rita Solnet

Mr. Mattus,

To be clear — I have no links to “union groups.” Zero. I never belonged to a union. I’m not a member. No member of my family were ever union members. I’m not a teacher. I never received a dime from any union for any reason. I’ve traveled to DC, Tallahassee and many other states speaking about preserving public education. I use my own money and sacrifice my own income when I do this. I work. I must work. I’m from corporate America, a Chamber Member. I am not a union spokesperson. Clear?

The quote attributed to me was taken out of context, (I’m not blaming you for that — all newspaper stories pluck out a few quotes and not the entire conversation.)

I do not believe all low income parents are uninformed or uninvolved. I volunteer and assist parents in my county who are quite poor. Some are knowledgeable about issues. Others work 2 jobs and have no time to stay on top of each new education reform launched by the FL legislature.

Parents in my county speak 141 different languages and comprise many ethnicities,

I also know (I know this from my CA PAA colleagues) that the CA-based, richly funded through Gates, Walton, charter-aligned Parent Revolution organization happen to prey upon uninformed, disenfranchised, low income parents. They seek uninformed parents out to spin their story in order to secure signatures they need. That’s a fact.

Perhaps your insinuation of a diversity lesson should be directed at Parent Revolution and not at parents who fight for children who will be abandoned by laws such as this.

I know Parent Revolution uses gift cards, restaurant coupons, meals, and cash to entice parents to meetings and to sign their petitions. I know Parent Revolution rents apartments/homes nearby the schools to be able to flip the school to a charter. These are all facts, Mr. Mattus. Proven facts.

This has nothing to do with the color of anyone’s skin or ethnicity. It has to do with vulnerability and being taken in a scam. The worst scam possible — one that promises their children a great future and never delivers.

Parents Across America has co founders and chapter leaders that are African American, Hispanic, and Latino and Asian. I thank you for the opportunity to respond to your criticism.

Hi Ms. Solnet,
Thanks for reading our blog. And thanks for responding. I hope you become a regular reader if you aren’t already. I admire your passion for public education and your desire to make it better. We have that general viewpoint in common, and I have no doubt we agree on a long list of more specific issues. But I have to respectfully continue to disagree with you about my post yesterday.
First, I never said you or the other parent activists I referred to were union spokespeople. I did say there were links between the established parent groups in Florida and both the unions and the Democratic Party. You, for instance, worked with teachers unions to secure some funding for the Save Our Schools rally in Washington D.C., if press accounts are accurate. But I don’t want readers to misunderstand: I never suggested those links were negative. We here at Step Up for Students have links to teachers unions and Democrats (as well as to folks all over the political spectrum) and we’re proud of that. My point, which I made clearly in the post, was this: it would be just as wrong for somebody to say that you were acting against your best interests, just because you have ties to influential groups, as it was for you and the other, anti-trigger parents to suggest that low-income parents wouldn’t be acting in their best interests because of who they’re linked to.
You also said the quote attributed to you in the Tampa Bay Times, by reporter Jeff Solochek, was taken out of context. I have no doubt that newspapers too often get it wrong. But as you know, I worked closely with Jeff for many years; it was the two of us who made the Gradebook blog the must-read forum it is today. I know Jeff to be a knowledgeable and careful reporter. So even though I don’t want to put you on the spot, I’m curious what the full context of your quote was.
On the other hand, that would again detract from the point. It wasn’t your quote in isolation that made me go hmmmm. It was the steady undercurrent of that view, which is illustrated by the other quotes I cited. I think your response continues to shore it up: “This has nothing to do with the color of anyone’s skin or ethnicity. It has to do with vulnerability and being taken in by a scam. The worst scam possible – one that promises their children a great future and never delivers.”
I have to respectfully say that I don’t think activist, low-income parents are any more vulnerable to scams than activist parents of more affluence. I do know, though, from interviewing so many over the years, that they are often more isolated. They often don’t feel the school district is on their side. They often don’t have the strength in numbers to get the district to respond quickly and do the right thing. And they often don’t have the established parent groups weighing in on their behalf. So again, while I agree the parent trigger bill was far from perfect, I can totally understand the impulse behind it.
Had it passed, I don’t think the trigger would have been used much. But in those rare cases where it may have been, I don’t think low-income parents, working desperately to save their kids, would have then thrown them to the wolves.

Rita Solnet

I did not secure funding for the SOS Executive Committee — if you read again you would read I was never tasked with that. By the way over 50% of the funding for the SOS rally, I did learn from those who managed that, came from individual donors. People like me who simply care about preserving public education.

I wore many hats for SOS. I secured some of the talent such as actor Matt Damon and is mom (who were not paid to attend) and I did work with the Daily Show to produce a DVD from Jon Stewart who could not attend the rally. His show wasn’t paid for the production of that DVD either. I scheduled Dr. Ravitch and Dr. Deb Meier – also no speaking fees. One of the rally cameraman was my college-aged son–again, no fees.

You see, Mr. Matus, there are a lot of people who care about what’s happening to public education and money doesn’t stand in their way nor does money drive them. Their compassion drives them and, at times, in the case of this parent trigger, their outrage drives them..

I don’t know why people have to associate a parent’s passion with “union” ties or “union links.”

Here is what you said, specifically.

…….Now had been “sweet talked” into their opposition by the teachers unions and the Democratic Party — and let’s face it, the links between those groups are obvious — they’d be ripped to shreds…………

I also work for the ALS-Lou Gehrig’s Disease Foundation where I do raise funds. Maybe you can find a sinister way to connect that into your column next time.

That statement was not vetted — it is intended to mislead your readers and yes, Mr. Matus, I do take exception to that as do my colleagues in Parents Across America..

I appreciate your apology.

I’ll continue to speak my own mind shaped from by my own experiences n the Florida public school system as a working mom, as a PTA President, as a SAC board member, as a corporate business partner, and as a volunteer for 16 yrs. to the district,

Perhaps there should be a prerequisite that before becoming an education reform advocate, everyone must put in a few years volunteering in public schools. The world would be a better place if that were a requirement.

Good luck with your new position, you column, and writing in support of Vouchers.

Thank you for your courtesy in responding.

Debbie Shaw

Perhaps Mr. Matus is unaware of the controversy embroiled in Chicago regarding busloads of protesters PAID to attend school board meetings demanding the closure of “failing” schools and turning them to outside management companies. The protesters had no connection to the schools (some didn’t even know the names). At least two have admitted to being paid $50. Are these the so-called parents we want speaking on behalf of our most at-risk students? I have no problems with Parents Across America, Fund Education Now, or the Florida PTA forming coalitions to protect children. They have no monetary interest in saving schools. But paid protesters being used as pawns? Not so much.

Hi Ms. Shaw, I was not aware of that controversy. Thanks for bringing it to may attention and for including the video link. That news report was absolutely shocking. But … clearly this isn’t typical. We shouldn’t use an isolated example of extreme shenanigans to tarnish the actions and motivations of low-income parents everywhere who are trying to do the right thing for their kids. That’s clearly a stretch and, I think, goes back to some of the sentiment that I criticized in my post: that somehow low-income parents don’t know how to act in the best interests of their children.

I also want to make it clear that I, too, have no problems with Parents Across America, Fund Education Now and the Florida PTA forming coalitions to protect children. I respect and admire all three groups, even if I don’t always agree with them. In my response to Ms. Solnet, above, I noted that I’m sure there are a long list of things about public education that we agree on.

Debbie Shaw

I appreciate your reply, Mr. Matus. If I believed that this kind of thing was “isolated,” perhaps I would have been more open to the Parent Trigger bill. Sadly, when there’s big bucks to be made, people don’t act in the best interests of others. As I’m sure you are aware, Adelanto Elementary School District is now dealing with its second attempt at a school trigger. However, how many people know of what went on at Adelanto’s prior charter school? I’ve been doing this (research) way too long to think these are isolated incidents.

I will say this, however: If you want an example of real parental empowerment, you should look into Doctor’s Charter School of Miami Shores (my previous home). Real parents of Miami Shores united to form a non-profit Charter school through the Village. Yes, it can be done. Yes, it can be successful. Not by taking away what belongs to the “public” and not by usurping the will of the other 49%, however. That’s where it falls apart in my eyes.

Hi Ms. Shaw,
Thank YOU for several reasons. I appreciate you offering the example of a charter school that you believe DID work. I had not heard of that one. I don’t think all charters should be lumped together and that was another part of the parent trigger debate that I found troubling. I think there is good evidence that some charters have a good track record with struggling, low-income kids; we shouldn’t forget that at the same time we shouldn’t forget that some charters are bombing.

I also want to thank you for your tone, as hokey as that sounds. We don’t want this forum to be an echo chamber, and we don’t want it to be become just another blog where people insult each other. We’re hoping that it will be a space where people who are supposedly from different camps can put down their weapons for a bit and have a civil exchange of ideas and information. You’re giving me hope that maybe that can happen after all.

Debbie Shaw

Here’s the thing, though. I had never heard of Ben Austin until his appearance on NBC’s Education Nation last year. At that time, a representative of Parents Across America (which was not invited to speak) was lucky enough to ask a question from the audience. Mr. Austin’s response was that PAA was affiliated and funded by the NEA– an out and out lie. Parents Across America speaks for parents who want empowerment. There is no national “union” for parents and I applaud Rita Solnet and the other founders who have given us a voice. So forgive me for questioning Mr. Austin’s integrity when I watched him lie on national television. And while we are on the subject of honesty, has anyone validated the veracity of Mr. Austin’s claims that he was a White House aide under the Clinton administration? What were his positions (he claims he had many)? Anyone?

I apologize for my misstatement yesterday regarding Ben Austin’s appearance on Education Nation. Parents Across America did receive start-up money from the NEA, a fact that I was not aware of until further reading yesterday. I am not one to let facts get in the way and just wanted to clear up my error.

Mr. Mattus, the entire design of the parent trigger is to “use” parents of students in struggling schools for a one-time transfer of management. There is nothing empowering or engaging about the parent trigger. It is a stunningly cynical ploy and by design relies on uninformed parents.

As for the unions, they are utterly ineffective on these issues. Seriously? Given their deep pockets, if they were really on the ball, would neighborhood schools be under siege all over this country? Yeah, um, no. Unions didn’t save Florida. Parents did.

In direct dialog with Parent Revolution I have asked repeatedly: why aren’t they working with parents to develop sustained roles in their schools? Parents in my own community banded together and took their place at the table on School Site Council, English Language Advisory Committees, PTAs, Schools Coalition and, most essential of all, elected a majority to the school board. Parents: doing it by themselves, for themselves.

This is most assuredly NOT what Gloria Romero sought to deliver to her backers. The staggeringly well-funded Parent Revolution, StudentsFirst, etc., don’t give a rats ass about real parents.

But Rita Solnet and the parents in Florida do. What happened last Friday is what real parent engagement looks like. Wake up and learn.

Mr. Mathison

Ron, where do I begin?

I didn’t see any one of your quotes mention low-income parents… YOU did. Your quotes are about less informed parents. You might need to mention that the F schools are low-income. The lowest F school had 67% Free/Reduced Lunch. Most were over 90%.

You also need to mention that charters have 10% FEWER students on FRL. They have not been as willing to go the inner city. Charters want to look successful, and know historically that minorities and low SES students don’t perform as well. Picking their locations not on demand or need, but to maximize the likelihood of their own success. Profit over need.

Please name one single parent group, low income or high income, that SUPPORTED this not connected to Jeb. “Parent” Revolution from California founded by a charter school CEO? The Miami Urban League? whose is on Jeb’s board of FFFF? There were NO parent groups supporting this AT ALL! Could it be that every newspaper and parent group saw through this ploy?

And why couldn’t those poor parents stuck in failing charters turn their schools around?

This wasn’t about empowering parents, it was about profiteering… nothing more.

Respectfully Mr. Mattus, your piece has some misinformed assumptions. All Florida schools have been converted into centers of test preparation and test centric environments versus student centered environments of learning. Changing the deck chairs at low performing schools without fundamental changes in that underlying reality empowers no parent. The high school drop out rate in Florida speaks to student dissatisfaction and in response, more tests are added. As a Florida community member and taxpayer, I reject legislation that is based on a philosophy of “pass it now, fix it later” and reject unfunded and unfundable mandates particularly in this time of great budgetary constraint. It is reasonable for constiuents to expect fiscal responsibility and well-crafted legislation. Trivializing the views of opponents who were shut out of the process adds little to a meaningful look at what real empowerment for low income parents means.

There are valid points on both sides – however, the reality is that education is a trillion dollar industry and there are huge sums of money to be made.

For many years public school systems had a virtual monopoly on education and in the process became complacent and unresponsive to the needs of the parents and students – the more low income and marginalized the community, the more indifferent the system.

Charter schools were born as a well intended effort to give greater local control and input to parents – shortly afterwards it became apparent to education “entrepreneurs” that there was big money to be made in education.

This has now evolved into a tug of war between the established school systems and their allies and the education reformers – however, you slice it – it’s all about the MONEY – sadly, the needs of the student is often a peripheral concern.

If you examine the motivation for individual and organizational actions related to education policy – follow the dollars!

Look at all the highly paid administrators in the public school systems, the vendors and contractors providing “canned” curriculum and consulting services totaling tens of millions of dollars. It’s a business!!

Look at the charter school operators buying buildings and renting them back to themselves at triple market rate, charging exorbitant management fees, leasing employees, etc., It’s a business!!

The PR and marketing campaign orchestrated by the actors involved in this modern gold rush resembles a pick-pocket convention with the students, parents and ultimately the taxpayers having their wallets lifted.

It’s a highly cynical view of the industry but one that has plays itself out daily. Education was once an institutional concept that was considered above mere profit , now the question is who do you want to trust with your dollars – the establishment “fat cats” or the reform minded “profiteers?”

Both shamelessly seek to use students and parents, particularly from failing schools, as window dressing to mask their efforts to further line their coffers, expand their empires, buttress their power base, etc.

I believe there is a misconception about the trigger option. The only empowerment it gives parents is to fire administrators/teachers and reopen as a public school or charter school (which is publicly funded).

These new schools are under the same common core standards as the traditional public schools. So, the DELIVERY of the education may be different (different teachers, administrators) but the CONTENT is the same.

What kind of choice is that, really, for parents? If you think teachers/administrators are THE reason schools are so horrible, I suppose this is an answer to prayer. IF, however, you believe school failure has to do with various reasons, including impossible demands put on by schools from NCLB and now Race to the Top and Common Core standards, the parent trigger won’t change much in educational woes.

Restoring consttutional state/local control to schools and stopping the DOEd and private organizations setting standards/assessments (CCSSI and NGA) would be a valid start to “fixing” schools. Arne Duncan’s plan to “empower” parents is bogus. It just allows private corporations to deliver the same education the traditional public school delivers.

It’s a shell game.

Brandt Robinson

Ron, I hope you are well and settling in nicely to your new post. I wish we wouldn’t get distracted from the more concerning issue, namely attempts to privatize (as in financially take advantage of) public schools. I do not doubt the sincerity of parents and/or guardians who want the best for their children. Nor would or could I dismiss the concerns about the quality of some schools. But by your own admission, the parent-trigger bill would likely only affect a few schools. And that seems like a lot of extra effort when what we ought to be doing is investing in those public schools in the very neighborhoods where others would be quick to open charters. I agree with you that it is wrong to suggest some parents of not informed enough. However, that would not stop certain people from using those parents to make their case foe what is ultimately a scheme to profit from the public sector. In the meantime, my classroom – either at Dunedin High School or the one I use to train new teachers for the past six years – is always open to you. I wish you the best and thank you for modeling yet another forum where the democratic process can continue. Take care.

Brandt Robinson

Hi Brandt,
Thanks, very much, for the kind words – and for the gracious offer to visit either one of your classrooms, I really appreciate that and, once I get settled in here, would like to take you up on that offer. I also want to thank you for your courage on the Gradebook blog. There were many times that I was floored by some of the things, particularly shockingly racist things, that were spewed (and are still being spewed) on that forum. Sometimes those things were spewed by people who said they were teachers. You were one of the few people with the guts to stand up those folks and tell them how wrong they were – and you weren’t afraid to do that even if they were (at least they said they were) fellow teachers. I think that says a lot about what you’re made of.

I’m afraid I’m running out of time to spend on this thread, but I did want to agree with you about something and then pose a question. I agree with you about the need to better invest in schools in some neighborhoods where some folks would turn to charters. But why haven’t we? Even though charters as a whole may have a mixed record, some have shown to be effective with struggling, low-income students. The KIPP schools are the first to come to mind (the one in Jacksonville being an exception, at least to date), but there are others built around similar models. Knowing they have a decent track record, why haven’t districts like Pinellas put forth a similar model? Granted, they cost more per pupil, but surely in a $1.4 billion budget, enough could have been carved out to give a KIPP-like school a shot. And yet the only school in Pinellas that I know of that has a structure like KIPP is the Academy Prep private school. Why is that?

Hi Brandt,
The above post was from me! I don’t know why it says anonymous. Sheesh. I guess I better figure out these technical glitches real quick. 🙂

Nadine Kirby

With all do respect Mr. Mattus,
There are many children of all different backgrounds that attend low performing schools not just low income families but a mix who do and are becoming targets of parent revolution and their deceitful tactics. Parent Revolution seeks out these schools specifically and these parents specifically so why shouldn’t we call them on it?? I see nothing wrong with parents and teachers and the PTA banding together and stopping such destructive legislation Like Parent trigger . FYI there are plenty of parents from all different backgrounds working together to keep our public schools public and not turn them over to privately run public charters! Quite honestly Charter schools do not play by the same rules and are not subject to the same rules as a public school is but are in fact entitled to the same money ? . And they will not benefit children with disabilities, Why? Well because they do not have to accept them the way a public school has to . I find it insulting that you can sit their and blog about parents and advocates here in florida that you do not even know. Speaking strictly for myself, I am the parent of a teen with physical limitations and LD My intentions are to ensure that every child regardless of ability gets the best education possible (thats a FAPE -Free and appropriate public school education; in the least restrictive environment possible. You see MR Mattus the profiteers like parent revolution would like parents like me to believe that they have my childs best interest at heart and by signing their petition ,Iwould in fact be signing my childs rights away once the public school is turned into a privately run public charter school. Thatis information that all parents need to be aware of and I am very happy to enlighten any parent who needs to know , especially our parents with differently abled children, children with learning disabilities, ELL AND ESOL higher and lower income alike!! Why would we even need parent trigger legislation when we already have turn around measures for failing schools here in Florida? There are I agree some (very few) Good charter schools but not when you compare them to our traditional public schools or our public school teachers.

Jennifer Martin

The Parent Trigger bill was totally unnecessary because parents already have the power to make changes in their schools. I know this first hand because my kids attended an elementary school that was being badly mismanaged by the principal. There were a lot of political issues at play as to why, and those issues involved the Area Superintendent to the point where she refused to act. But the parents knew better and we all got together and without any Trigger Bill lobbied the school district for changes. We got a new principal and our problems disappeared. Because we were united and not divided, as the parents in California have become when their version of this bill has been tried, the parents won. The school grade immediately went up from a “C” to an “A.” We parents hold the power already without interference from outside groups. That’s why we have an elected school board, a board that is accountable to the public. Once a school turns charter, that accountability could be lost and parents actually could lose power. Since parents already have the power, then there is only one reason to propose a bill claiming to give parents the power they already have, and that is to limit that power.

Well, Ron.

When I read your article, I had one heck of a response. But, as I scroll through the comments below your article, I see that many well spoken, highly educated, caring activists have already covered the basic objections. So, ditto what they say.

There was a better story here, Ron.

A story of hard work, dedication, true grit. A story of folks giving up every waking moment of their days and nights to raise their voices.

There was a victory here. We worked hard for it and we got it. That was the real story.

You missed it.
Oh, well, Ron. Maybe next time…

One last thought.

I must say, your post had me spitting fire, Thinking thoughts, like ‘Et tu, Brute?’. I mean, it just seemed so unlike you to write such a slanted piece. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.

But, after I posted the comment above, I went back and did a little reading on you. I found this statement:

“Ron has left the Tampa Bay Times to take the post of assistant director of policy and public affairs at Step Up For Students, the Tampa-based group that oversees Florida’s corporate tax credit scholarship program.”

Oh, OK, Ron. I get it.

So when you wrote, “But I know that kind of talk won’t get us rowing in the same direction,” I misunderstood.

I thought we were still rowing in the same direction,

Good luck in your new position.

( https://www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook/content/lineup-changes-gradebook )

As an educator, I have no problem with NON-PROFIT charter schools. For instance, universities that have a college of education should have charter schools to mentor teachers and conduct research into education. Cities such as Pembroke Pines have gone charter with success. These schools are out to teach children. I have a tremendous problem with for-profit charter schools. Having known students that attend them and teachers that teach at them, their bottom line is the profits, not the students. There has been corruption all over Florida where business classes were kids on street corners holding cans and begging, schools in homes, schools that hosted after hours parties with smoking and drinking on the premises (That was one of my favorites. The parents could smell the smoke and see the bottles left behind, there was a flyer advertising the school’s address and they still denied it)

With core curriculum being implemented, there are some major changes in education coming down the pike. I think we need to leave our state alone and stop bringing in for profit companies to take over education. We need to FUND education adequately and allow teachers to teach. Currently, Florida is 11th in achievement (a drop from 5th) and either 47th in per pupil spending and 49th in teacher pay or 49th in per pupil spending and 47th in teacher pay, can’t remember which. Our motto as educators should be, “We do less with more.”

Also, having taught in inner city schools, parent involvement was nil. I would have one or two conferences show up a year. There are many reasons for this, but I personally don’t think they would be able to make an informed decision about the school due to lack of involvement. There are some parents in every school that are active, but the MAJORITY of parents in the inner city schools I taught at were not involved. They felt that it was our responsibility to teach and discipline their children when we had them. So to say they have the right to decide to turn a school over to a charter company, is in my opinion, ridiculous. And if that was going to be the case, then the only parents that should be able to vote are those that have a record of involvement with the school in some way, shape or form. Showing up for their two conferences a year, signing paperwork sent home (that was always a challenge), coming to school events, volunteering, etc. would be a good start.


Mr. Matus,
You have a valid question- however, I think it completely misses the point. First, you are also assuming with your article that those parents who you feel may want to “pull the trigger” cannot speak up for themselves if they wanted to. In fact, I think parents of any income level and neighborhood can – and they have. PAA represents all and any parents who are interested in belonging- because they read the mission and purpose or they saw a speaker or they had a friend tell them about PAA. It is a true grassroots group where all are welcome to add their viewpoints.

But that’s not the point. The point of govt provided education is just that- to provide the most efficient, cost effective and best education possible to our children. That is not always easy to balance. But the goal should always be to strive to spend money on making education better in smart, goal directed ways that have a basis in educational research. Let’s look at how FL is spending it’s money:

1. Testing- I think we are all pretty clear that testing is not teaching. It really has become a negative and has not improved education. This is a major frustration for many parents- including “trigger” parents.

2. Charters- Yes, there are good ones. Is this the most cost effective way to provide a good education for our kids? I’d argue that if we had plenty of money- charters are great- exclusive but great. But we don’t. We are low on funds in fact. Adding more schools to our public school system increases costs. It just does. Is this how we want to spend our limited money- on exclusive schools that may or may not be “better” than the regular school?

3. Vouchers- Again, you add financial support for additional schools and that is a less efficient ed system.

4. Closing schools (and triggering them)- First of all- a school is a community building. There is something so wrong with closing a school. I cannot imagine how a community must feel as their school that’s been there forever closes. Can you imagine being a former student of that school? I think that this is a slap in the face to that community. And- what happens? Dramatic improvement? Maybe. Why? What is it about that new school that is better? And why can’t those changes be made to that school without the shut down? Shutting a school down doesn’t serve the children. And changing it to a privately owned charter school does not make it better. In fact, it makes it even less secure. Security (feeling like your school will be there forever) is important to a student and to a community. It’s one of the roots of a person. But, parents at failing schools (and I hate that word failing) are frustrated (see #1). The trigger is one way to give them power. But this makes no sense. How is this in the interest of the children? It’s not. There is nothing that shows this helps kids. Sorry that the parents maybe do not feel empowered. But unless it actually helps the kids- why would we do it?

So, does the fight to stop the parent trigger law maybe unfairly assume that parents who may be “trigger” parents cannot speak for themselves? Maybe. Maybe not. Aren’t you doing the same thing? But the point is- Will the trigger law improve education? And the answer is clearly no.

Quite simply the phrase that sums it all up is: CHARTER SCHOOL BUBBLE.

This is a concerted effort on the part of the right wing and Wall Street to DE-FUND public education, and then when the charter schools fail, they are going to be bailed out with taxpayer money.

Any attempt to cover this issue without a discussion of the fact that the banks are in on the charade is a total waste of time.

Banks get billions of dollars in tax breaks for funding crooked charter schools. It is happening all over the country. There have been many local and national publications that have covered this.

It’s time our country’s JOURNALISTS wake up and put 2 and 2 together.

The upswing in charter schools around the country IS A SCAM designed to earn the banks money and to extract more taxpayer money from the Middle Class.

We need to get away from the stupid mentality that it is public vs private. What really counts should be failing vs succeeding. If we change the language then those awful private and charter schools wont be able to hide behind “private schools”. Each school should be held accountable to the community, children and families they serve. Some of us are serious about education and some of us don’t really care about educating anyone including ourselves. I hope that those of us who truly care about education could come together and stop fussing about something so simple. The bottom line is that we should be promoting schools that are providing a good education for our children.

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