ChoiceMediaTV's Education Reform Minute reports that the parent trigger law in Tennessee could become easier for parents to put into effect if the changes proposed by Representative John DeBerry, who represents Memphis, become law. DeBerry, who serves on the state Legislature's education committee, seeks to lower the number of signatures required before a petition to take over a failing school and turn it over to a charter operator can be acted upon.
Currently, 60% of the parents or guardians of the school's students need to give their consent for the trigger to be pulled. DeBerry proposes to drop that number down to 51%, or a simple majority of parents. The proposal would also put more power into the hands of the school's teachers. If 51% of them sign off on a similar petition, the school could be converted into a charter as well.
DeBerry explained that his motivation is to put more power into the hands of the parents, whose efforts at change could be severely hamstrung not only by the high signature barrier but also by the efforts of a recalcitrant local school board. The current law, which, according to Choice Media, is considered "weak," also requires the assent of the board members to any and all changes proposed by parents for the school.
Well, I went out and filed a bill because it is necessary it's most certainly an idea "whose time has come" — to use a clichÃ©. I think that considering all that we've talked about in education reform all over the country I think of all those who are talking and all those who have input the parent company have the least input of anyone. Regardless whether its good or bad, too often it is often crammed down their throats.
Under the new version of the bill, the board would no longer have the power to block the reforms something that will finally give parents the power that they have been looking for to effect real changes in the public school system.
DeBerry, who is a Democrat, represents a new wing of the party which has turned its back on its traditional union supporters and embraced the education reform movement, of which school choice and parent trigger laws are cornerstone ideas.
DeBerry shares these views not only with the noted Democratic reformer and former head of the Washington D.C. school district Michelle Rhee – and her pro-reform organization Students First – but also the current U.S. Secretary of Education under the President Barack Obama, Arne Duncan.