Buffalo-Rochester Group Gearing Up for Fight with RCSB Commissioner White about Parent Trigger Law

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By Sharese Hardaway

Members of the Buffalo-Rochester Parent Trigger Coalition are unsupportive of a recommendation to amend the parent trigger law by Rochester school board vice-president Van White.

Parent Trigger Law, first initiated in California, gives parents the ability to force dramatic change on a given school. If parents collect enough signatures, they could fire a principal, cut the teaching staff in half or close a school and turn it into a charter school.

In 2012, Rochester parent and community activists joined with Buffalo to form the Buffalo-Rochester Parent Trigger Coalition, urging long time education reformist Assemblyman David Gant to co-sponsor the bill with Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes and amend it to include Rochester.

White recommends instituting a parent report card, where parents would be evaluated based on their involvement in their child’s education. A grade for each school’s overall parental involvement would be calculated using a parent self-evaluation system—based on the percentage of parents submitting the self-evaluations.

Other factors considered in the report card would be the school’s attendance rates and the rate of parental involvement in the school’s School Based Planning Team, the percentage of parents who have accessed “Parent Connect” (a web-based portal where parents can access student grades, etc.), the percentage of parents who returned signed report cards and any other factors that the Parent Advisory Council deem appropriate.

In order for parents to be allowed to “pull the trigger” on a given school, they would have had to receive a “passing grade” from the parent evaluations.

“Rochester has the worst educational outcomes for black boys in the country. Our parents don’t need any more excuses or hoops to jump through; they need real power to transform their failing schools, said former school board member, Allen Williams.

Williams, now president of the New York Center for Educational Justice, disapproves of White’s recommendation. “It is thoroughly disappointing that my former colleague and civil rights attorney would be so hostile to the idea of education reform by parent referendum,” Williams Said.

But Commissioner White says he is in favor of Parent Trigger Laws. “I just want a responsible approach,” White says. “When we begin to give parents the authority to shut down a school we have to have responsible parents in the process otherwise we are taking people down a dangerous, dark alley.”

White says the Parent Report Card is part of a broader proposal the school board is considering that will “revolutionize” the way the district is conducting business.

Seven states have passed trigger law legislation and other states are making efforts to get trigger legislation passed. Earlier this month, 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.