Can parents run their kids’ schools?

Eventually, parents will take over their children’s low-performing school using “parent trigger” laws. (Adelanto, California parents have resubmitted their petition.) Can parents run their kids schools any better than the pros? asks Andrew Rotherham in Time. Even bad schools can get worse, he warns.

Adelanto parents distrust outside charter operators. If they can’t agree with the district on improving Desert Trails Elementary, they plan to turn it into a community-run school. Turning around an existing school is a huge challenge, Rotherham writes.  ”Let’s face it – if it were easy to run great schools, we’d have more of them.”

To avoid chaos, he suggests a supermajority — perhaps two-thirds of parents — be required to trigger a takeover.  That would ensure a “core consensus.”

However, parent involvement in running schools has a “decidedly mixed” record, he writes. In the ’60s, New York City created community-run schools that “fired white teachers without cause and sparked a legendary teacher strike,” he writes.

As the father of school-aged children, it’s hard for me to oppose the parent trigger, and I don’t. But I do see school choice as a more sustainable way to give parents options and control in the long run. . . .  I’m cautious about what we can expect once parents pull that trigger. When it comes to handling real firearms, there are some age-old axioms: never point a gun at anything you don’t intend to shoot, and never fire unless you know where the round is going to end up. In this case these rules apply to schools as well.

I share Rotherham’s concerns. Parents may find a charter operator with the expertise needed to run a school. If they try to do it themselves, at a school with a history of failure, they’ll face a very steep learning curve.

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