Parent-Trigger Bill Debated in House Committee

Texas AFT legislative spokesman Ted Melina Raab testified this evening against SB 1263, the “parent trigger” bill by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) that would use the device of a parent petition as the pretext for handover of neighborhood schools with low performance ratings to private managers and charter operators.

Melina Raab reminded the committee that there’s already a good “parent/teacher” trigger in state law, in the form of a joint petition for a campus charter by a majority of parents and teachers at a campus. (Under this law, Section 12.052 of the Education Code, the local school board may not “unreasonably deny” the petition.) This mechanism has been used in more than a dozen campuses in San Antonio and quite recently also in an Austin ISD school. In each case, Melina Raab said, the process of developing a campus charter helped build the collaborative structures needed to support school innovation and improvement.

Texas AFT’s testimony prompted a heated exchange between Rep. Alma Allen (D-Houston) and Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Humble). Allen, a veteran educator, sharply challenged the hype surrounding the unproven “parent trigger” concept, which has yet to show any evidence of successful implementation in the state where it originated (California) a few years ago or for that matter anyplace else. Reinforcing one of Texas AFT’s key points, Rep. Allen said a parent petition is no substitute for real parental engagement in the hard work of turning around of a struggling school.

The committee appears to be closely divided on this bill, which may come up for a vote at a follow-up committee meeting tomorrow, May 15. Help bolster opposition to the “parent trigger” by sending a letter to your state representative now against SB 1263.