City Journal Autumn 2014

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Autumn 2014
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Larry Sand
Trigger Tremors « Back to Story

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Jeffrey Hart, Morgan Reynolds, Paul Craig Roberts, Diane Ravitch.

Senility is not pretty.
I taught high school in Los Angeles for 5 years, and am about to retire from 20 plus years of teaching in New Jersey. I teach Special Education and Spanish. I HATE being forced to belong to NJEA, the teacher union. I worked in the corporate world for years, before and in-between teaching positions. I certainly see both sides! In my humble opinion, it all boils down to money and parental involvement/attitude. The majority of my students have never done/ do not do homework; are not interested in much, and expect A's. Part of the problem is that I have kids who have IQ's in the 60's, but I must teach them Biology/ Algebra, etc. A complete waste of time. They all want to go to college, but would have difficulty filling out the application. Unrealistic aspirations...we need more vocational schools....and stop demeaning Blue Collar jobs! Besides, college degrees are no longer worth the money!!
What a great article. I was unaware of this parent empowerment law. Sure hope this story gets picked up nationally.
great article. Interesting how the teachers & public school system likes to criticize parents for not being involved until they do become involved. The public school system has been a power grab from the beginning with Dewey and the german kindergarden system. I was afraid this article was going to be about how parents had lost more of their rights concerning the education of their children, so, thank you. It's good to know parent's are exercising and extending their rights to make sure their children receive the education they deserve not one that conforms to the needs of the teacher's unions.
I cannot thank you enough. Fabulous. Deborah
"A system of private schools answerable mainly to parents would work better."

Indeed. But how to get there from here?

The current system has to be in the process of disassembly before a better system can begin to arise. One route is to open charters and that's happening but because there's one route to a goal doesn't mean other routes should be shut down or precluded. The more the merrier.

Your concerns about "moblike action" seems a bit misplaced given the manner in which parent trigger occurs.

There's nothing particularly mob-like about signing a petition, following the publicly-accessible, lawful process and ending up with the result you set out to obtain. It's not as if there's a drunken mob of parents, torches alight, pitchforks waving, hoarsely demanding to kill the beast.

The political utility of parent trigger shouldn't be overlooked.

With charters and vouchers school districts lose a student here and a student there. The number may ultimately become to big to ignore but "ultimately" can be years, even decades in the future. Then it becomes a matter of whoever's in charge when the number becomes too big to ignore and if the current bunch isn't in charge it's not a problem.

Parent trigger, by contrast, slices off not just hundreds of kids with one whack but a big chunk of real estate as well and quite quickly. *That* gets the attention of whoever's in charge and if you're looking for a response parent trigger will get one from an otherwise indifferent school board.
I'm skeptical of parent triggers--it does seem to me to encourage moblike action. But I'm downright cynical about public school bureaucracies.

A quality school needs quality leadership. Both parent triggers and the structure of public schools create high entropy environments where the message of good classroom teachers is likely to be drowned by noise.

A system of private schools answerable mainly to parents would work better.
Why is a teacher's unoin allowed to use public taxpayer money in this fashion? If teachers want to unoinize, fine, but then tell them they can't use what is really taxpayer money to buy off politicians. It's something that can easily be inserted into laws that create public unions, but for osme reason, it is never suggested. WHY? Am I wrong here - why should taxpayer funds be used for is really a corrupt purpose?
Or is there must be donations require them to be made equally to all parties. Something, anything to end this corrupting aspect of politics.
My only beefs with the piece are that parent trigger laws in states other then California weren't covered and, perhaps this is more important, the originator of the law, Gloria Romero garnered only the barest mention.

On the first, some mention was, I believe, warranted due to the widespread nature of this groundbreaking law. If it's California-only it might be considered an aberration dependent on strictly local conditions but if, say, Louisiana, Mississippi, Connecticut, Texas, Indiana and Ohio also passed parent trigger laws, as they have, that knowledge would provide important context.

My second objection calls for a separate piece but may, ultimately, be more important.

Gloria Romero, a life-long Democrat and seven-year California Senate majority leader, was the originator of parent trigger and pivotal in getting the law passed.

Why?

Why does a life-long Democrat, a member of the party most closely associated with teacher's unions, propose and then shepherd through the legislative process a law which must have enraged the teacher's unions the instant they heard about it?

It would be interesting, and useful, to know what it is about the education issue that splits off the likes of Ms. Romero from the main stream of the Democratic party.
I'm all in favor of better or improved schools. I don't like Teacher's unions or what often appears to be entrenched school district and school board cadres flailing away at any attempt to change. However, I found this account to be deeply one-sided if not out-and-out biased. Mr. Sand appears to have an axe to grind and grind he did. What is mysterious to me is that if groups of parents can organize to this extent to overthrow an entire school then why weren't they able to organize voters to simply vote in board reformers? No, this strikes me as a power grab by probably well-funded malcontents (and many of us have reason to not be happy with schools)who didn't get their way in a personal dispute about either their child or their career and are now hell bent for leather to impose their will and being good organizers have been able to recruit less thoughtful parents who, having abdicated their role as either truly involved parents or responsible citizens, are more than happy to come along for the ride as long as their kids get all that they feel is coming to them.
I'm thrilled to see parents who are taking control of their children's education. The schools in CA have become a joke. Well not a joke really...a shameless disgrace.
Thank you for a fair and balanced article. As someone familiar with Desert Trails, I applaud the opening of the new school and the brave parents who would not back down. I wish them every success.