“I think we need to consider parent unions, or parent triggers, as part of the D.C. school reform mechanisms,” said Mr. Chavous, who sipped coffee and water at a breakfast meeting as I chowed a short stack and bowl of grits (with cheese, thank you very much.)
He pointed out that several states, including the king of the left-coast leaners, California, and lawmakers and parents in some other states are pushing such game-changing rules of engagement to not only reform schools but to fully engage parents in their children’s education.
California’s first-in-the-nation law grants practical and unparalleled rights to parents who can petition changes in staffing, management and even programs in their children’s low-performing schools. All of those aspects of parental authority were ignored in President Obama’s proposed Elementary and Secondary Education Act and former President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act.
The California law goes still further, encouraging parents of a targeted school and the campuses that feed into them to exercise such options as conversion to a charter school or closure of the school.
Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, where post-Katrina public schooling was resurrected by charter schools, endorses parent triggers. And Florida lawmakers are in the throes of approving such a bill this week.
Mr. Chavous - who is trying to recapture a seat formerly held by his father, Kevin Chavous (a lawyer, author and nationally recognized school reform expert) - said parental involvement is perhaps the single most important component missing in the education establishment’s decision-making process, especially when the schools are low performing and their students are low achieving.
“We should be encouraging parental engagement and parental intervention every step of the way and not merely when a school is troubled academically or a child has poor grades or discipline problems,” said Mr. Chavous, a 27-year-old Democrat trying to unseat incumbent Yvette M. Alexander in the Ward 7 council race.
Some parents said D.C. school authorities simply do not want parents in traditional public schools.
“DCPS doesn’t even welcome parents,” a mom affiliated with Burroughs Elementary said Tuesday evening at the Ward 5 Education Council meeting. DCPS doesn’t require parental involvement, encourage parents or entice parents.”
That sounds about right.
Lord knows D.C. officials need to pull the trigger on parents, too many of whom are M.I.A. when it comes to their own children’s schooling - unless something goes terribly awry, like an act of violence or some other traumatic experience.
Indeed, parents who attended the meeting were asked to suggest ways to urge parent attendance for an upcoming meeting of the Gray administration, in which school closings and budgeting will be aired. I suspect even the likable public schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson and charter-school friendly De’Shawn Wright, Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s go-to man on education, won’t get a free pass at this meeting.
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Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...
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