State of Oklahoma
House of Representatives
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 2, 2012
Rep. Ed Cannaday
State Capitol Building Rm. 539-B
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105
Contact: Valorie Owens
Lawmakers Support Education Best Practices, not Hollywood Hype
OKLAHOMA CITY (October 2, 2012) Today lawmakers expressed dismay over Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi’s endorsement of a “parent trigger” law, a policy idea that is based more on ideology than empirical data and which has recently received a lot of Hollywood hype in the new film “Won’t Back Down.”
Trigger laws, such as the one proposed by Senator David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, for the coming 2013 legislative session, provides that if 51 percent of parents whose children attend a failing school sign a petition, they can radically transform the school using any of a set of “triggers.” Parents can petition to: fire the principal; fire half of the teachers; close the school and let parents find another option; or convert the school into a charter school, which are privately managed, taxpayer-funded public schools that are granted greater autonomy from regulations applicable to other public schools.
“I am disheartened by Superintendent Barresi’s response, but not surprised, as she has consistently sought to perpetuate myths about public education and undermine parents’ confidence in our public school teachers,” said Rep. Ed Cannaday, D-Porum. “I am beyond frustrated that she undercuts funding for public schools, seeks to grade these schools using questionable standards, then defines many of them as irretrievably broken and pushes for conversion to charter schools.”
The first parent trigger law was enacted in California in 2010, and is now on the books in six other states — Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, and Texas.
To date, there have been only two attempts, both in southern California, to pull the parent trigger. One never made it to the approval process, and the other, which served as the premise of the “Won’t Back Down” film, was tied up in the court until recently as many parents, feeling deceived by the for-profit charter-backed organizers who came in to gather petitions, sued to have their signatures withdrawn from the petition. The California Superior Court judge decreed that parents who have signed a parent trigger petition do not have the right to change their minds and may not rescind their signatures. The future of this school remains unknown, as charter operators are now eligible to bid for the school, but parents are divided on the best course of action to take at this time.
“I think that this is yet another attempt to undermine and demoralize the reform efforts taking place in our public schools right now,” said Rep. Curtis McDaniel, D-Smithville. “We have report cards on school districts going out to parents next week, and the grades are skewed so you have to score a 93.7 to earn an A. I have serious concerns that the underlying goals of all of these actions is to convince parents that public schools are failing our kids and that they need to seize control of these schools then hand them over to privately-managed charter schools.”
Rep. McDaniel noted that since Supt. Barresi took office she has focused her efforts not on supporting public schools but on expanding the footprint of charter and virtual schools across the state.
“There is no evidence that overall charter schools perform better than public schools,” said Rep. McDaniel.
A study conducted at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution presents evidence that students in only 17 percent of charter schools show greater improvement in math and reading than students in similar traditional public schools, whereas 37 percent deliver learning results that are significantly worse than the student would have realized had they remained in public schools.
“I think in our Oklahoma public schools we have some of the best teachers in the nation who not only strive to teach children the fundamentals, but also try to assist on out-of-school factors that have an impact on student performance,” said Rep. Cannaday. “Our schools offer many wraparound services, such as meal programs, tutoring, counseling and after-school programs, and they are constantly being asked to do more while being provided less and less. We need to support our public schools and teachers, now more than ever.”