Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Direct government over Public Schools Another Bad California Idea

All you need now is a simple majority of parents to toss a schools staff out. Oh boy. Edweek:
Under new rules released this week by the Los Angeles Unified School District, parents whose children attend some of the lowest-performing schools in the city will have the ability to force the district to launch new reform initiatives at troubled campuses. The rules—written by Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines and his team—are part of a series of regulations being crafted to govern the district’s new school choice policy.
The wild west of school reform, no quality control or the adoption of a proven formula, is about to take the form of majority rule. When will California learn? Again, the cliche' "this will give parents power" is the pat answer for everything. As for "smart academics," we don't need no eggheads.
This is not about wealthy philanthropists or smart academics coming up with the right way to reform schools,” said Ben Austin, the executive director of the Parent Revolution, the nonprofit, pro-charter school group that lobbied Mr. Cortines to give parents authority over launching reforms. “This is simply about giving parents power."

By gathering a simple majority, or 51 percent, of parental signatures in a school community, parents can “trigger” the district to open up the targeted school for outside management. What’s more, the rules also grant that authority to certain prospective parents, such as those whose children attend schools that feed into the troubled campuses.

The so-called parent trigger, which has drawn the ire of United Teachers Los Angeles, could be the first-of-its-kind reform strategy in the nation.

Teachers Union President A.J. Duffy did not back away from (a lawsuit). “We are laying the groundwork for legal action,” he said. “Look, if this actually happens, and they give away 250 schools to multiple entities, you are going to have an education disaster in Los Angeles, the likes of which nobody can imagine seeing.”

Mr. Cortines’ rules have also sparked concerns from charter operators who say that their autonomy—a hallmark of the publicly financed schools—is threatened, so much so that many may decline to participate.

One of the biggest sticking points is the district’s requirement that outside operators provide slots to children in the neighborhood where the schools are located, essentially enforcing an attendance boundary for charters. That could imperil eligibility for private and federal charter school grants because rules for securing those monies often require charters to do admissions by lottery.

Mr. Duffy, the teachers’ union president, “It’s just such a messy way to do school reform” he said.

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