BATON ROGUE, La. – A different kind of parent trigger proposal is turning into a rare “kumbaya” experience for Louisiana’s education reformers, parents, lawmakers and teacher union leaders.
All of these very diverse parties support legislation that would allow parents with children in a state-run school district to vote on whether control of the school should be returned back to the local school system, reports NOLA.com.
Allowing a majority of parents to force major changes in a low-performing school has become known as “the parent trigger.” Traditionally, teacher unions oppose parent trigger laws because they could lead to large numbers of union teachers being fired, or an entire school being turned over to a charter school operator.
But this parent trigger bill – sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Ted James – would apply to schools in Louisiana’s state-run Recovery School District (RSD). Most of the schools are in the New Orleans area.
Through the RSD, Louisiana officials take over the operations of chronically low-performing schools and use extra resources and innovations to improve student learning. About 40,000 students are currently in a school that’s part of the RSD.
The RSD has a successful track record, but apparently not a perfect one.
Under James’ proposed law, if the RSD is found not to have improved a school’s performance for five consecutive years, a majority of parents could vote to return operations to the local school board, NOLA.com reports.
Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education would also have to sign off on any proposed changes.
Louisiana’s teacher unions support this idea because it would once again allow them to influence local schools boards to their own benefit, and would allow them to collect dues payments from teachers.
Parents and reformers support the proposal because it gives parents more control over their children’s education and holds the state accountable for its performance while running local schools.
Even State Superintendent John White – a vocal education reform advocate – expressed support of the bill in testimony before a legislative committee.
“This gives parents more choices,” White said, according to NOLA.com. “I think it also holds the feet of government to the fire to do the right thing urgently for kids in low-rated schools.”
The bill sailed through committee and “will now proceed to the House floor for further debate,” the news site reports.
While reformers can’t love the idea of letting the unions sink their hooks back into a troubled public school, they realize that parental choice and accountability is a two-way street.