Thursday, April 11, 2013

Texas Bill To Expand Parents' Voice in Education

A bill entered on the Texas Senate's intent calender may expand parents' voice in education at the local and district level.

Senator Patrick, who is spearheading the fight to reign in CSCOPE, sponsored SB 1236. The bill should see a floor vote soon.

If passed, the bill seems to increase parental rights, particularly parents' voice in the disposition of schools that are not operating to established standards.

The bill does not fully enact any form of school choice legislation such as a voucher program. It does not increase any amenities offered to home-schooled students.

What it does, however, is force local school boards, commissioners, and district superintendents to act in accordance with the desires of their bosses, the parents of the students.

If a school or district performs unsatisfactorily or below acceptable standards, parents of the students can file a petition. That petition must include a form of solution, not just a redress of grievances. If the parents of the majority of the students of the affected campus sign the petition, the commissioner shall take the actions outlined by the petition.

For example, say the social studies program in the school uses Howard Zinn's revisionist history text books in its curriculum. Let's say that the school fails to achieve satisfactory performance in history and social studies. So the parents draft a petition to change to more accurate texts, taking Zinn's works out of the curriculum as their plan. If the petition then garners enough signatures, the commissioner shall find more appropriate texts, moving Zinn's books to the library for reference purposes only.

The bill expands to include closing the schools, changing the management plan, changing personnel, and other legal options for the institutions.

At least, that is how most people should understand SB 1236, as seen below:

relating to allowing parents to petition for repurposing, alternative management, or closure of certain public school campuses. 
       SECTION 1.  Section 39.107(e-2), Education Code, is amended to read as follows: 
       (e-2)  For purposes of this subsection, "parent" has the meaning assigned by Section 12.051. Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, if [If] the commissioner is presented, in the time and manner specified by commissioner rule, a written petition signed by the parents of a majority of the students enrolled at a campus that is assigned an unacceptable performance rating under Section 39.054 for two consecutive school years [to which Subsection (e) applies], specifying the action described by Subsection (e)(1), (2), or (3) that the parents request the commissioner to order, the commissioner shall, except as otherwise authorized by this subsection, order the specific action requested.  The commissioner shall verify that a petition received under this subsection contains the required number of signatures.  If the board of trustees of the school district in which the campus is located presents to the commissioner, in the time and manner specified by commissioner rule, a written request that the commissioner order specific action authorized under Subsection (e) other than the specific action requested in the parents' petition and a written explanation of the basis for the board's request, the commissioner may order the action requested by the board of trustees.

Inch by inch, Texas is dancing around School Choice. With Common Core State Standards Initiative knocking at the state's door and the controversy over the management and implementation of CSCOPE curricula awakening increased parental involvement in their children's education, each step closer is a step in the right direction for proponents of education reform.