Lorie Barzano’s testimony in Texas on parent trigger

April 30, 2013

TX House Public Education Committee Hearing

Public Testimony of Lorie Barzano

Good afternoon/Evening, Committee members, guests. My name is Lorie Barzano, a public school parent, taxpayer and Chair of the Coalition to Strengthen Austin Urban Schools (SAUS), a local affiliate of Parents Across America. We are a parent led group committed to quality, accessible Public Education for all children. As parents, we actively work to support our neighborhood schools and make a concerted effort to educate ourselves about education issues and policies affecting the public education system.

We have come to recognize that “trigger” laws masquerading as parent empowerment bills actually enable the elimination of local public schools and silence the voice of parents in
governing the charter schools established in their wake. In this light, I speak on behalf of Coalition SAUS parents to urge you to oppose HB300 & HB2976.

As parents, we recognize these bills as classic cases of bait-and-switch. Marketed under a guise of family empowerment and parental choice, once implemented, they actually handover our
neighborhood public schools to the control of private charter operators, which afford families fewer choices and parents less power. In signing a trigger petition, parents actually sign away
their rights to insure such things as class size limits, certification standards for teachers and due process for student discipline. (1)\

Coalition parents know that groups promoting charters cajole us to sign “trigger” petitions. A month ago, I sat in a TX Senate Education Committee hearing, where a woman, on the payroll of Parent Revolution, introduced herself as “simply” a concerned mother from California sharing her experience of successfully pulling the trigger on her daughter’s failing public school.

Anyone who has followed the situation in Adelanto knows how that trigger, backed by Parent Revolution, has jammed the court dockets, split the community, disrupted the students,
demoralized the teachers and overridden parent preferences—an odd definition of success. (2)

Finally, trigger bills only serve to re-invent the wheel. The TX Education Code (12.052) already empowers parents to petition our neighborhood schools to create in-district charters like the Innovation Public School at Travis Heights Elementary in Austin. This allows parents to engage in the management and curriculum of their child’s public school, without violating the governance structure of that school. Not accountable to taxpayers through publicly elected school boards, outside charter entities have their own privately appointed boards and remain accountable, first and foremost, to shareholders and investors, not parents or students. (3)

In closing, I leave you with what Coalition SAUS parents want. We want elected officials to get on with the work of improving our public schools, not privatizing them. We want you to hear us parents as a legitimate voice in the education policy debate. We want outcomes-based, evidence-backed policies. We want the best interest of our children really put first.

Thank you.

(1) See Policy Brief by the Annenberg Institute for Education Reform at Brown University, “Parent Trigger: No Silver Bullet,” at: http://annenberginstitute.org/pdf/ParentTriggerPolicyBrief.pdf

(2) See Parent Revolution employee testimony in Senate Education Committee hearing on March 26, 2013 (Part II) at: http://www.senate.state.tx.us/avarchive/?yr=2013

And Ben Kamisar’s “New Education Collaborative Launched with Support of Senate Chair,” Austin American-Statesman, January 24, 2013, at:

And Nick O’Malley’s “Furious parents Hijack US Public Schools,” Donny Brook Blog, April 27, 2013, at: http://www.donnybrookmail.com.au/story/1461128/furious-parents-hijack-us-public-schools/?cs=5

And Julian Vasquez Helig’s “Parent Trigger Laws: Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing and Astroturfing,” Cloaking the Inequity Blog, March 25, 2013, at:

And Valerie Strauss’ “A ‘Parent Trigger’ Mystery Solved In Florida,” The Washington Post, April 27, 2013, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/04/27/a-parent-trigger-mystery-solved-in-florida/

(3) See Travis Height Elementary AISD Public School at “The Innovation School Project” at: http://www.thesinnovationschoolproject.com/about-isp/

And Kathleen McGrory’s “For Second Consecutive Year, ‘Parent Trigger’ Bill Dies on Tie Vote,” Tampa Bay Times, April 30, 2013, at: http://www.tampabay.com/news/

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