Education Reform

Julian Vasquez Heilig on the Hoax of the “Parent Trigger”

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Julian Vasquez Heilig recently testified to the House Education Committee of the Texas legislature on legislation called “the parent trigger.” Such legislation, originated in California five years ago, would give parents the “power” to take control of their school and hand it over to a charter operator. The link contains both the transcript and a video of his testimony. The “parent trigger” was initially financed by billionaires with the expectation that parents could be used to privatize their schools, thus transferring community assets to private hands by vote of a simple majority of those who are parents in that school today but may be gone the next year.

Put simply, Vasquez Heilig’s testimony is brilliant.

Here is an excerpt:

The current research on parent trigger suggests that we should have major concerns about SB 14

SB14 is parent empowerment without the empowerment. Parental involvement without the involvement.

Why? Students and parents rights are actually more limited. Once the petition goes forward, the rights that are currently guaranteed to parents, students and teachers under the democratically defined education code are squelched. Under private control, parents and students no longer have guarantees on class size limits, disciplinary decisions, or qualified teachers among others.

As the Houston preacher just said, “parents deserve to have a say.”

Furthermore, as my real estate agent recently told me “Location!, Location!, Location!” I understand why there is great interest in parent trigger. Schools are sitting on very valuable parcels of land in Austin, in Houston, in Dallas.

It would be a coup for those shopping for real estate and facilities if just a few parents from any particular year are given the reins to easily transfer hundreds of millions of dollars in public assets. Let’s do some quick math.

Originally the SB14 Parent Trigger bill would have impacted more than 200 schools. Based on changes to the bill in the Senate, estimates that I have heard are that this would probably now impact 60 schools per year. Let’s estimate those schools are worth $3-5 million each in terms of property and buildings.

A few thousand parents could move $300 million in property resources out of the public space! Thus, Parent Trigger as written in SB14 is a one-way easy street.

My understanding from attorneys that I have talked to today is that it’s a grey area whether Texas could get the buildings back. Specifically, related issues have been litigated in Ohio and elsewhere.

Parent Revolution likes to talk about California. Turns out Californians don’t like the idea of giving away their schools for free. Parent Trigger has been boondoggle in terms of implementation and student achievement in California. Californians have realized parents trigger sounds good in theory, but in practice has been a failure. It’s a California export best left on the shelf.

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