Union reveals how it blocked ‘parent trigger’

Connecticut minority groups pushed for a parent trigger bill, which would let a majority of parents force a management change at chronically low-performing schools. Unable to kill the bill, the state affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers negotiated a much weaker version — and bragged about the strategy in a presentation at the union’s annual convention. RiShawn Biddle at Dropout Nation discovered the presentation online and kept a copy of the pdf, correctly anticipating the AFT would take down the document once it was publicized.

“How Connecticut Diffused [sic] The Parent Trigger” is an  “illuminating look into union cynicism and power,” editorializes the Wall Street Journal.

“Not at the table,” notes the AFT document, were “parent groups” who supported the reform. Engagement meant pressuring legislators vulnerable to union muscle. That’s most of them—and the AFT’s muscle worked.

The result was a reform in name only. Out were simple parent petition drives, in were complex “school governance councils” of parents, teachers and community leaders. Most significantly, as the AFT’s PowerPoint brags, the councils’ “name is a misnomer: they are advisory and do not have true governing authority.”

The new governance councils are “glorified PTAs,”  Hannya Boulous, director of Buffalo ReformED, tells Education News.  Boulous is working for parent trigger legislation in New York.



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  1. This is much ado about nothing – a halfhearted attempt at damage control after the public-education opponents were blindsided by the mega-viral Matt Damon video clip.

    The AFT PowerPoint is just a not-outstandingly-done presentation on a run-of-the-mill lobbying effort– what’s the big deal? Here in California, the state PTA lobbied in the same way against our state’s Parent Trigger law, which was created by and for the benefit of charter school operators, not parents. There were no payoffs to elected officials and there was no deception involved (unlike the reformers’ Illihois Stand for Children operation in the infamous Jonah Edelman vid, for example).

    And as Parents Across America founding member Bill Ring points out on the PAA blog, it’s not at all valid to disdain the parent empowerment model in the AFT presentation. He called it “what any parent advocate would want to see:
    * School Governance Councils – Mandated the establishment of advisory groups comprised of elected stakeholder representatives in consistently low performing schools
    * Gave parents majority representation
    * Gave Councils authority to recommend reconstitution in third year of poor performance
    * Created opportunities for collaboration with teachers, parents and other stakeholders
    Aren’t these among the first (and necessary) steps for true parent engagement at any school site (assuming the requisite training and support)? If schools convert to charter under a so-called “parent trigger”, are the parents going to get these elements, particularly with a school run by a charter management organization (CMO)? As a founding family member of an independent, parent-created charter middle school in Los Angeles, I would respectfully suggest no, they are not.”


  2. You about done or do you have a few more talking points to prayerfully pound?

    To sum up you, and the public education lobby, are opposed to all changes to public education which might just shake up the status quo.

    Everything is just peachy except that people are, shockingly, expecting the kids to be educated and are losing patience with the excuses for that not happening. Charter schools, vouchers, parental trigger, standards, teacher accountability and organizational accountability are all terribly flawed and if everyone would simply stop making all sorts of unreasonable demands and allow the public education system to slump back into its formerly comfortable slouch everything would be just fine.

    But that’s not going to happen and I must say that there’s a good deal of gratification to be had in watching the increasingly frantic efforts by proponents of the educational status quo to block every change. Not only isn’t it working but in trying to stonewall any changes to the public education system those changes are being accelerated.

    Now, in all the other states in which parental trigger is being discussed proponents will look at that pdf and make sure that the tactics employed by the AFT are countered.

  3. CarolineSF says:

    No, they’re too busy sharing and forwarding the Matt Damon clip to be aware of the existence of this boring PowerPoint.

  4. Stuart Buck says:

    “Parents Across America” seems oddly full of excuses as to why actual parents can’t be given any power to make choices for themselves.

  5. I understand somewhere between seventeen and twenty states have enacted legislation like easing of charter caps, expansion or enactment of voucher and tax credit programs, teacher accountability measures and reduction of tenure protection.

    Got a flip response for that?

  6. Richard Cook says:

    I wonder if CarolineSF is human or a robot. Odds?

  7. Roger Sweeny says:


    That was just silly. If you disagree with something Caroline says, say so. Say why. Maybe it will move the discussion forward.

  8. Stuart Buck says:

    And it’s farcical to see a “Parents” Across America member defending a document that bragged of “absence of charter school and parent groups
    from the table.”

  9. Stuart Buck says:

    The only reason the Matt Damon clip might be viral is because so many of the people on your side are easily impressed by celebrities who curse while making irrelevant ad hominem arguments.