It’s time to reconsider the parent trigger

la-ed-parent-trigger-20150803-002Five years after California’s parent-trigger law was passed, it has not had the dramatic effect on public schools that its proponents hoped it would. Yet it is already at a crossroads in its young life.

The law, passed in haste in 2010 in an effort to empower parents at lower-performing schools, lets them force dramatic change if half or more of them sign a petition. They might demand the replacement of some or most of the staff or vote to turn their school over to a charter operator. They might even close the school altogether. Under the law, the parent trigger is an option only at schools whose scores on the state Academic Performance Index fell below the proficiency mark of 800 and that failed to meet their federal improvement requirements, called Adequate Yearly Progress, for several years in a row. The law limited the trigger option to 75 schools on a first-come-first-served basis to see how it played out; at the time, officials expected the number to be quickly met and expanded.

But that hasn’t happened. There have been only four schools in which parents filed petitions that succeeded in forcing a change. Parents at five more schools used the petition process as leverage to negotiate changes, a much less disruptive process, without ever filing an actual petition.

It is hard to know whether these changes have resulted in improved academic performance because the state has for the moment stopped reporting test scores during the switch to new standardized exams. Yet it’s encouraging to see that parents have some clout, especially low-income parents who felt their children were stuck at problematic schools. That was the original idea: to give deeply frustrated families a chance to take action when educators ignored them.

That’s why this page supported a limited rollout of the parent trigger, despite concerns about the sloppily written law on which it was based — and why we continue to support it in principle despite misgivings both conceptual and pragmatic.

The trigger law raises questions as basic as: Who owns the schools? Do they belong to the parents whose children attend them or to the district voters and taxpayers who fund them and elect the school board? If taxpayers and voters are adamantly opposed to a change that parents support, who ought to get their way? Should a bare majority of parents — not all of whom are citizens, by the way — have enough power to close a taxpayer-funded school, forcing the minority of parents to send their children farther from home? This option has never been exercised, but it remains a possibility.

There are also concerns about whether petition drives are being held in an open, transparent manner, so that all parents have the information they need to participate, and whether the law allows too many fairly good and improving schools to be targeted.

The law remains the subject of dispute. In July, a judge ruled in favor of parents at Palm Lane Elementary School in Anaheim who were trying to use it. The Anaheim City School District had fought back, claiming that because California has suspended the reporting of its tests to the federal government, and isn’t publishing its API scores, there were no grounds under the law for a trigger petition. The judge was right. Parents should be able to use the most recent data available for petitions.

But there are permanent changes afoot that could require a rewrite of the law. Not only will the API soon be replaced by something that looks far different, but, at the same time, legislation to reauthorize the federal No Child Left Behind Act would, as currently worded, do away with the federal AYP measurement completely. The parent trigger law is specifically tied to those two measurements.

A new trigger law should create stricter guidelines to target truly low-performing schools, and should prohibit school closures through petition. Trigger petitions must be made public, with all parents informed, and the larger community given a chance to be involved. When a petition prevails and parents are considering proposals for changing management of the school, all parents should have a voice and a vote in the decision, not just those who signed the petition.

The parent trigger remains an intriguing if so-far-unproven idea, but the time has come to start imagining a more thoughtful version.

>>> Read more Los Angeles Times

Follow the Opinion section on Twitter @latimesopinion


Board rules Teach for America members in Detroit can be in teachers unions

National_Labor_Relations_Board_logo_-_colorDETROIT — The National Labor Relations Board ruled Friday that Teach for America teachers in a Detroit charter school have the right to be a part of a union.

According to a statement from the Michigan Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, the NLRB said Friday 14 Teach for America corps members should have been able to vote in an election last spring. That election was held to determine if teachers at University Prep Schools, a charter school network in Detroit, wanted to form a union.

Detroit 90/90, the private company that operates the schools, argued the Teach for America members, as well as long-term substitutes, were not professional employees.

“We are really pleased to be recognized as professional teachers,” said Patrick Sheehan, a TFA corps member and second grade advisor at the time of the election. “U-Prep hired us to teach just like other teachers. Making the legal argument that we are not professionals means one of two things — either Detroit 90/90 doesn’t respect the work we do with students or they lied to prevent us from organizing a union.”

Voting will not be reopened in the election because the additional 14 Teach for America members who are now allowed to vote would not have swayed the election.

University Yes Academy teachers voted to unionize earlier this year, despite their parent company — New Urban Learning — announcing it was walking away from the school. The announcement of New Urban Learning walking away from University Yes took place days after the school’s teachers announced they planned to hold a vote on unionization.

Teachers at University Prep and University Prep Science & Math voted on unionization in May. That effort to unionize failed.

The Michigan Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, which is part of the American Federation of Teachers-Michigan, has filed several objections and charges of unfair labor practices against Detroit 90/90. Among them is that Detroit 90/90 retaliated against teachers who were organizing, both before and after the election.

“I was frankly shocked they were willing to make this argument,” said David Hecker, president of AFT-Michigan. “It’s unfortunately more evidence that some of these management companies are willing to do almost anything to prevent teachers from having a voice in making their school a better place.”

Brandon Moss, a social studies teacher and president of Michigan Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, said the teachers at the University Prep schools deserve a fair election.

“We are confident that the NLRB will find that Detroit 90/90 violated the law during this last election and will likely order a new election be held,” he said in a statement.

A message was left with a Detroit 90/90 representative seeking comment for this story.

Kyle Feldscher is the Capitol education and MSU reporter for MLive Media Group. Reach him via email at or follow him on Twitter at @Kyle_Feldscher




Chris Christie to teachers union: You deserve a punch in the face

Republican presidential candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, speaks to a group sponsored by Americans for Peace Prosperity and Security, Wednesday, July 29, 2015, in Manchester,NH (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Republican presidential candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, speaks to a group sponsored by Americans for Peace Prosperity and Security, Wednesday, July 29, 2015, in Manchester,NH (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, struggling to gain traction in a crowded 2016 GOP presidential field, said Sunday that a national teachers union deserves a “punch in the face” and called it the “single most destructive force in public education.” Christie said the union cares only about higher wages and benefits and not about children.

Christie, who has long made teachers unions a favorite foil, made the comments on CNN’s “State of the Union” in response to host Jake Tapper, who noted that Christie has said that he confronts bullies by punching them in the face. “At the national level, who deserves a punch in the face?” Tapper asked.

Without missing a beat, Christie said: “Oh the national teachers union, who has already endorsed Hillary Clinton 16, 17 months before the election.”

Christie was referring to the American Federation of Teachers, the second-largest teachers union, which became the first national labor union to make an endorsement in the 2016 race when it gave its backing to Clinton on July 11. The largest union, the National Education Association, has not yet made an endorsement.

Christie said the AFT was “not for education for our children. They’re for greater membership, greater benefits, greater pay for their members. And they are the single most destructive force in public education in America. I have been saying that since 2009. I have got the scars to show it. But I’m never going to stop saying it, because they never change their stripes.”

Randi Weingarten, the AFT president and a close Clinton ally, responded with a statement Monday.

“Chris Christie has issues – from reneging on his promise to fix pensions to his state’s fiscal standing facing near junk bond status,” Weingarten said. “But the biggest issue is he’s a bully and has anger management problems. That he would threaten to punch teachers in the face —mostly women seeking to help children meet their potential and achieve their dreams — promotes a culture of violence and underscores why he lacks the temperament and emotional skills to be president, or serve in any leadership capacity. It’s a sad day in the life of our nation to see a candidate threaten violence to gain political favor.”

Christie has long tangled with public employee unions but has a particularly fraught relationship with teachers unions, frequently railing against their pensions and health care benefits. He has called the unions “political thugs,” and he has had several public confrontations with individual teachers, captured on video and replayed on YouTube or cell phone images shared widely on social media .

In 2013, after Christie delivered a speech at a VFW hall during his campaign for re-election to a second term as governor, middle school teacher Melissa Tomlinson asked Christie, “Why are you portraying our schools as failure factories?” He wagged a finger at her and said: “What do you want? I’m tired of you people,” according to Tomlinson.

Recent polls put Christie toward the bottom of the Republican field in the 2016 presidential contest, with about 3 percent of likely GOP voters in his corner.

>>> Washington Post 

union1Unions and the little man seen here as an illustration for union corruption currently prevailing in the United States. USA-Flag-Wallpaper-01***


Edwards, USDA, and PGCPS Highlight Initiative to Increase Schools’ Ability to Provide Healthy Meals to Students

001_el_de_002Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards (MD-4)

August 3, 2015

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards (MD-4), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, Katie Wilson, and Director of Food and Nutrition Services for Prince George’s County Public Schools, Joan Shorter, visited William Hall Academy in Capitol Heights, Maryland.  The visit highlighted the USDA’s “Team Up for School Nutrition Success” Initiative, a targeted technical assistance and peer-to-peer mentoring program for schools nationwide, aimed at improving the ability of schools to provide healthy meals to school children.  The group saw firsthand how the program is being implemented at William Hall Academy, ate lunch with students, and toured the kitchen facilities.

“Today’s visit was a great opportunity to see federal and local partners working together to improve the availability of nutritious meals for students,” Edwards said.  “As we know, childhood hunger doesn’t take summers off; it is an ongoing threat in communities throughout Maryland and the entire country, one that is detrimental to a child’s growth and development.  I was grateful to see the operation that Prince George’s County Public Schools, in conjunction with the USDA, has in place to have nutritious meals served on site and delivered.  I thank USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, Katie Wilson, Director of Food and Nutrition Services for Prince George’s County Public Schools, Joan Shorter, and everyone involved in making these programs a success.”

“Today over 95 percent of schools participating in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs have successfully implemented the updated nutrition standards into their school meals. For schools to continue moving forward, it is important for USDA to work with partners like the Institute of Child Nutrition and committed members of Congress,” said Katie Wilson, Deputy Undersecretary for USDA’s Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. “By providing training and peer-to-peer mentorship through the Team Up For School Nutrition Success initiative, schools have the opportunity to make positive strides in providing healthy school environments with financial stability and strong student meal participation.”

“It was great to welcome Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards, USDA Deputy Under Secretary, Dr. Katie Wilson, and representatives from the MD State Department of Education to William Hall Elementary School,” said Joan Shorter, Director of Food and Nutrition Services for Prince George’s County Public Schools. “Today’s event was to kick off the Institute of Child Nutrition’s (formerly NFSMI) Team Up for School Nutrition Success program, which connects experienced school food service directors with new directors in a mentoring partnership.  I look forward to participating in the program as this mentorship will help school food service programs nationwide by sharing expertise and the necessary knowledge for child nutrition success in all areas, to include menu planning, food safety, and financial management. “



Seal_of_the_United_States_Congress_svg ***


World Bank Peddling Private, For-Profit Schools In Africa, Disguised As Aid

Aid is being used as a tool, a spokesperson for Global Justice Now tells MintPress, to compel the majority of the world to undertake policies which help Western business while undermining public services in emerging nations. 52_bigWorld Bank Headquarters in Downtown Washington, D.C .

EDINBURGH — Private, for-profit schools in Africa funded by the World Bank and U.S. venture capitalists have been criticized by more than 100 organizations who’ve signed a petition opposing the controversial educational venture.

A May statement addressed to Jim Kim, president of the World Bank, expressed deep concern over the global financial institution’s investment in a chain of private primary schools targeting poor families in Kenya and Uganda and called on the institution to support free universal education instead.

The schools project is called Bridge International Academies and 100,000 pupils have enrolled in 412 schools across the two nations. BIA is supported by the World Bank, which has given $10 million to the project, and a number of investors, including U.S. venture capitalists NEA and Learn Capital. Other notable investors include Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Pierre Omidyar and Pearson, a multinational publishing company.

In a speech delivered in April, Kim praised BIA as a means to alleviate poverty in Kenya and Uganda. Critics responded that many Kenyans and Ugandans cannot afford private education, further arguing that this type of investment merely supports Western businesses at the expense of local public services.

A section of the letter addressed to Kim asserts:

“We, civil society organisations and citizens of Kenya and Uganda, are appalled that an organisation whose mandate is supposed to be to lift people out of poverty shows such a profound misunderstanding and disconnect from the lives and rights of poor people in Kenya and Uganda. If the World Bank is serious about improving education in Kenya and Uganda, it should support our governments to expand and improve our public education systems, provide quality education to all children free of charge, and address other financial barriers to access.”

Opposition to educational neocolonialism

The statement reflects a growing global movement questioning Western policies pushing private education in developing countries. It was written and signed by 30 organizations in Uganda and Kenya and supported by 116 organizations around the world, including Global Justice Now and ActionAid. They claim BIA uses highly standardized teaching methods, untrained low-paid teachers, and aggressive marketing strategies targeted at poor households.

In his speech supporting BIA, Kim said that “average scores for reading and math have risen high above their public school peers.” Opponents questioned these figures, noting that they appear to have been taken directly from a study conducted by BIA itself.

Bridge co-founder Shannon May on a video monitor in the company's Nairobi headquarters.  (Frederic Courbet/NPR)

Global Justice Now added that the World Bank president’s assertion that the “the cost per student at Bridge Academies is just $6 dollars a month” was misleading.

“This suggestion that $6 is an acceptable amount of money for poor households to pay reveals a profound lack of understanding of the reality of the lives of the poorest,” Global Justice Now, a London-based organization promoting social justice, wrote on its website in May.

A spokesperson added that Kenyan and Ugandan organizations calculated that for half their populations, the $6 per month per child it would cost to send three primary school age children to a Bridge Academy, is equal to at least a quarter of their monthly income. Many families are already struggling to provide three meals a day to their children.

Moreover, Global Justice Now claimed that the real total cost of sending one child to a Bridge school is between $9 and $13 a month, and up to $20 when including school meals. “Based on these figures, sending three children to BIA would represent 68% (in Kenya) to 75% (in Uganda) of the monthly income of half the population in these countries,” the organization stated.

Another signatory to the letter was Salima Namusobya, director of the Initiative for Socio-Economic Rights in Uganda, who said:

“If the World Bank is genuine about fulfilling its mission to provide every child with the chance to have a high-quality primary education regardless of their family’s income, they should be campaigning for a no-fee system in particular contexts like that of Uganda.”

However, the World Bank insists that it remains a strong supporter of free public education and that the vast majority of its funding was directed to support this sector.

“We at the World Bank Group believe that no child should be out of school because of an inability to pay fees and that all children have a right not just to be in school but also to be learning basic skills for life while they are there,” a spokesperson for the World Bank told MintPress News in an email.

“While our investment in Bridge Academies is US$10 million, our current education portfolio exceeds US$14 billion, of which 95% is support for public education. Of our relatively small support for private education, the majority is for higher levels of education.”

Pointing out that the World Bank is working closely with the governments of Kenya and Uganda to help strengthen their respective public education systems, the spokesperson added that BIA were “complementary” to ensure that parents who invest in private schooling were getting the best possible education for their children.

“Surveys show that in these countries—as in many developing countries—the average quality of education is low across both public and private schools, making it an urgent priority to gather evidence on what works and ensure that all children are not only in school but also actually learning,” the World Bank spokesperson said.

Moving forward, more evidence is required to determine which programs work best and the World Bank is to embark on a rigorous evaluation of the BIA program in Kenya, the first large-scale trial of fee-paying schools in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the World Bank, measuring effectiveness of these schools will help governments, policymakers and parents determine how to ensure that all children can access a good education.

 Concern over upsurge of private education in developing nations

The speech from Kim, president of the World Bank, came shortly after representatives of civil society from several countries, including Uganda, met with education officials of the World Bank to discuss its support for BIA and fee-charging primary schools. The subsequent statement of opposition from NGOs follows an upsurge in the financing of private education across the world, especially in Africa, often with the support of foreign investors.

These investments have attracted growing condemnation, including criticism from Kishore Singh, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to education, who argues that private schools must be resisted because they aggravate inequality.

Writing for The Guardian on April 23, Singh cited a study on private education by the U.K.’s Department for International Development that said a large number of low-fee private schools targeting poorer families in developing countries were unregistered.

Every lesson is tightly scripted. The teachers deliver lessons by scrolling through the scripts on a tablet. Even small details such as praising students are listed in the class instructions.  (Frederic Courbet/NPR)

“These schools save costs by hiring ill-trained teachers and running large classes in substandard school buildings,” Singh wrote, adding: “Such ‘edu-businesses’, as they have come to be known, are an unsatisfactory replacement for the good public education governments should be providing.”

Despite these findings, DFiD has also invested in BIA, prompting criticism from Global Justice Now. A spokesperson for the social justice organization told MintPress News: “British taxpayers are forcing private education systems on countries like Uganda and Kenya through schemes like this backed by DfID and the World Bank.”

Aid is being used as a tool, Global Justice Now added, to compel the majority of the world to undertake policies which help Western business while undermining public services in emerging nations.

The spokesperson added:

“The introduction of universal education, the increasing length of compulsory education, the creation of comprehensive schools — these are some of the greatest social achievements we have ever made in the U.K., and we remain rightly proud of them. The U.K. aid budget and World Bank development policies could and should be used to help others to achieve these vital components of a decent society.”

MintPress contacted DFiD for comment but no response had been received at time of writing.

However, BIA did respond to the offer of right to reply and said the above statement released by the NGOs included numerous “inaccurate” and “misleading” statements. The BIA spokesperson told MintPress:

Bridge International Academies exists for one purpose: to ensure that every child, regardless of the location of her birth or income of her parents, receives an education

that engages her mind and heart, and enables her to succeed academically, socially, and professionally in her country.”

Earlier this month, United Nations Human Rights Council urged states in a resolution to regulate and monitor private education providers for the first time. The resolution demands that states implement regulatory framework that establishes minimum norms and standards for private education providers, as well as “monitor private education providers.”

The HRC resolution also calls on states to ensure that “education is consistent with human rights standards and principles.”

Following the announcement of the resolution, Katie Malouf Bous, of Oxfam International, is quoted by Action Aid as saying:

“Too many governments have neglected their duty to adequately finance education, leading to weakened public schools and increased privatization as the inevitable result. Serious and substantial investments to provide good quality public education must be the antidote to privatization.”

via MintPress News

Young students in a Bridge International Academy school in Nairobi, in September. On the surface, there's little to distinguish these schools from others in the developing world. But Bridge's model relies on teachers reading lessons from tablets.

Young students in a Bridge International Academy school in Nairobi, in September. On the surface, there’s little to distinguish these schools from others in the developing world. But Bridge’s model relies on teachers reading lessons from tablets.


Baker holds private meeting to explain police station foul up

rushern-baker-head-111010wMr. Rushern Baker III has been under pressure to perform and denounce corruption in the county 


According to WUSA9, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker met privately late Monday afternoon with community leaders from Fort Washington to explain his side of an embarrassing budget situation that has produced a new $14 million dollar county police station with no funding for the officers to occupy it upon completion.

The meeting was held at the county administration building in Upper Marlboro, according to Baker spokesman Scott Peterson.

Early in 2015, Baker proposed a budget that called for countywide furloughs of county workers and layoffs for some, while leaving enough money to staff the new District VII police station now near completion on Fort Washington Road.

The Prince George’s County Council rejected that proposal and instead called for a 2 percent cut to all departments countywide. That left police with insufficient funds for the station, according to chief Mark Magaw.

Baker vetoed the budget, but the council overrode him.

Meanwhile, crime in the area of the District VII station has been declining, according to Peterson.

The situation is part of the fallout over a bitter year in Prince George’s between the County Executive and the County Council, which rejected Baker’s bold plan to raise taxes 15 percent to fund a turnaround of the school system.

County Council Chairman Mel Franklin said delaying the opening of the station is “disrespectful” to those communities that had lobbied for it for 15 years and were eager to see it open in September 2015.

 “There was zero communication with the community,” said Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro), whose district would have been served by the station.

The budget finally adopted by the council raised taxes 4 percent despite the cuts that were made.



Prince George’s built a police station, but says it can’t afford to open it.


Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III is delaying, for financial reasons, the opening of a Fort Washington-area police station that has been in the works for more than a decade.

Construction of the District VII station is nearly complete, and a commander for the station, which would cover the southern region of the county, has been selected.

But officials said that because of constraints in the budget passed by the County Council this spring, no officers will be available to staff the station this fiscal year.

The decision has angered residents who advocated for the project and has prompted sharp criticism from County Council members, who accused Baker (D) of taking unilateral action.

County Council Chairman Mel Franklin said delaying the opening of the station is “disrespectful” to those communities that had lobbied for it for 15 years and were eager to see it open in September.

 “There was zero communication with the community,” said Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro), whose district would have been served by the station.

Aides to Baker placed the blame on county lawmakers and on cuts they made to the budget proposed by Baker.

“It’s funny, because it’s like they are blaming the weather man,” said Baker’s budget chief, Thomas Himler. “We told the [council] it was going to rain, and now it’s raining.”

Baker’s budget included a double-digit tax increase to generate money for public schools, and layoffs and furloughs for county workers to offset a separate shortfall in operating revenue. The council rejected his spending plan, opting for a smaller tax increase and doing away with the layoffs and furloughs. It also proposed setting aside 2 percent of every agency’s budget for contingency funds.

Baker vetoed that budget, warning that the council’s proposal would, among other things, defer the opening of the police station and trigger the cancellation of police recruiting classes. But the council overrode Baker’s veto.

“We were very clear,” Himler said. “They chose to ignore that, and we moved forward. What did they think they were voting on?”

Aides say Baker had not yet publicized the decision not to open the station, which was first reported by WRC-TV (Channel 4), because he has not finalized the spending cuts he is making to comply with the budget passed by the council.

Prince George’s Police Chief Mark Magaw said in a statement that, though the department is eager to open the station, “cuts are preventing us from hiring new officers at a rate faster than current officers will retire.”

For now, officers from Oxon Hill and Clinton will continue to work in the southern region, which includes Fort Washington, Brandywine and Accokeek.

“From a citizen’s point of view, it seems kind of ridiculous,” said 40-year county resident Larry Carbaugh, pointing out that construction of the station is already paid for. “To say it is going to be there but we’re not going to staff it is childish. . . . It sounds like little kids playing games.”

Legislators say they may consider using contingency funds to save the station.

“Our partnership has fallen apart,” said council member Obie Patterson (D-Fort Washington). Baker “has to understand this is not a county that operates under one branch. It’s all of us.”

>>>Washington Post 

>>>Fort Washington residents, politicos demand Pr. George’s open police station