A Bi-Coastal, Schoolyard Brawl Officially Begins Over California's Parent Trigger Law

The folks at Parent Revolution, the guiding force behind California's Parent Trigger law, are not going to take it anymore.

For a while now, education expert and NYU professor Diane Ravitch, who's based in New York City and maintains an influential blog, has loudly banged the drum that the Parent Trigger and Parent Revolution are merely tools for greedy, corporate power players.

Parent Revolution executive director Ben Austin is fed up, and now the Los Angeles-based organization has created a blog to counter Ravitch's constant critiques, which Parent Revolutions says are bogus.

Ravitch doesn't buy the argument that the Parent Trigger is an effective political tool for parents to fight against powerful, anti-reform school district boards and teachers' unions.

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Judging from her blog, Ravitch is convinced that there's a huge corporate conspiracy -- Parent Revolution is funded by such billionaires as Bill Gates and Eli Broad as well as the Walton family of the Wal-Mart chain -- to essentially privatize as many public schools as possible through the use of the Parent Trigger.

The Parent Trigger in California allows parents to takeover only chronically failing schools through petition. If a majority of parents sign the petition, then they have many options to improve a school -- from firing a principal to working more closely with a school district to a total revamping by creating an independent charter school.

But just the threat of parents using the trigger can grab a school district's attention and create much-needed reforms at a failing school. Parents, as a result, are given real political power through the trigger.

Ravitch and other critics of the Parent Trigger like to focus on the fact that charter schools are run by organizations outside of a public school district and usually don't have unionized teachers. Which is why teachers' unions and their supporters hate the Parent Trigger -- they think it's bad for their business. The needs of kids and their parents, though, get lost in the shuffle.

So Ravitch thinks the Parent Trigger is lousy, criticizing Parent Revolution and the Parent Trigger whenever she gets the chance.

Parent Revolution is tired of it, and the organization has started up a blog called "Truth in Ed Reform" to counter her allegations and critiques.

"Spreading provable lies and fantastical conspiracy theories made without fact-checks against reality won't get us any closer to ensuring each child in America attends a top-quality school that we would choose for our own family members," Parent Revolution says in a press release, announcing the start of their new blog. "The mission and goal of this site will be to help set the record straight."

Noting that the blog will have a "special focus" on Ravitch, Parent Revolution also says, "We respect Profesor Ravitch's intellect and the arc of her life's work. But, as others have already noted, our education system needs and deserves intellectually honest debate -- particularly from esteemed individuals like Professor Ravitch."

Parent Revolution adds, "Such a worthwhile discussion should honor the 'school yard rule': never tolerate language or behavior that we would not allow our kids to exhibit on the school yard."

With that, it appears we have a bi-coastal, school yard brawl on our hands. Someone get the principal.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Patrick Range McDonald on Twitter at @PRMcDonald.


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