Parent trigger law debate heats up

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City school board Vice President Van White proposes school and parent report cards. - FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO
  • City school board Vice President Van White proposes school and parent report cards.

The Buffalo-Rochester Parent Trigger Coalition, a group of community organizations and education activists, is renewing a push for a parent trigger law for the school systems in both cities.

Parent trigger laws, first initiated in California, give parents a tool to transform persistently failing schools. Parents can petition the school’s board to enact one or more reform options, such as converting the school into a charter school, firing the principal, or making sweeping changes to the school’s staff.

Allen Williams, president of the New York Center for Educational Justice and a former Rochester school board member, is leading the effort to get New York lawmakers to take up legislation drafted last year by Senator Mark Grisanti and Assembly member Crystal Peoples-Stokes.

Former Rochester school board member Allen Williams. - FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO
  • Former Rochester school board member Allen Williams.

Also, the coalition is critical of a recent proposal by Rochester school board vice-president Van White. Part of White’s proposal supports trigger laws, but also recommends instituting parent report cards in Rochester’s schools.

White recommends that parents undergo a self-evaluation of their involvement in their child’s education. The results would be compiled into a grade for the school, based on factors like the school's attendance rate, parent participation in School-based Planning Teams, percentage of parents who sign and return report cards, and the percentage of parents who regularly use the district’s Parent Connect system to check on their child’s attendance and test scores.

The coalition says White’s proposal amounts to "cherry picking" parents who can petition the board for trigger reforms.

Seven states have passed trigger law legislation, and efforts to get trigger legislation passed are under way in about half-dozen more. Supporters of trigger laws got a boost of encouragement earlier this month when the parents of a school in Southern California successfully converted a failing elementary school into a charter school. It marked the first time the law has been invoked.

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