A forthcoming bill follows a new constitutional amendment permitting independent charter schools, which voters passed in November. Rep. Edward Lindsey (R-Atlanta) said he plans to introduce Parent Trigger legislation within the next week. The bill has not yet been filed.
The legislation will simplify the process for letting parents apply to have failing public schools converted into charter schools. More than one-half of students’ households must sign the petition for a conversion before it can take place.
Lindsey emphasized this detail: counting only one signature per household. That is, two-parent homes cannot cast two votes. This departs from the pioneering parent trigger law in California, which counts votes by parent rather than household.
“We’re also looking at giving the parents more than one alternative,” Lindsey said. “They could also simply petition that the existing administration in the school be replaced.”
Concern for the Customer
“Only in education do you have such complete disregard for the customer. Parent Trigger changes that dynamic,” said RiShawn Biddle, editor of Dropout Nation.
Biddle said Parent Trigger laws can provide Georgians benefits even if parents fail to get enough petition signatures to require changes at their child’s school. Citing results in California, he said motivating parents to sign petitions at all created a more cooperative relationship between parents and administrators.
Finer, potentially divisive points will need to be hammered out in-session, Lindsey said. These include determining what role the school board will have in the transition, as school boards control education funds for individual schools. Legislators will also consider what role, if any, teachers will have in the process.
“If a Parent Trigger got passed, it must provide the necessary resources for parents to establish the quality school they know their community needs,” said Andrew Lewis, executive vice president of the Georgia Charter School Association.
Charter School Myths
The Parent Trigger legislation in Georgia will likely be passed into law, Lindsey, Biddle, and Lewis said. They agreed Parent Trigger proponents must first dispel some misconceptions.
Parent Trigger opponents often complain the law overly promotes charter schools, Lindsey said.
In addition, Lewis said, some believe charter schools primarily benefit white, middle-to-upper class students. Lewis said Georgia voters’ approval of the charter school amendment demonstrates they don’t believe that.
The constitutional amendment favoring independent charters garnered 58.4 percent of the popular vote in Georgia. Of those votes, one-third came from the 27 Georgia counties where racial minorities are the majority.
“This is not a Republican-Democrat or suburban-urban issue,” Lewis said. “It is an issue of access to quality public education. We don’t care what people call public schools other than quality.”