MEREDITH: Involved parents can lend support to their schools

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Teresa MeredithThe “parent trigger,” which allows parents of children in failing schools to vote to petition their school board to force major changes, nearly passed the General Assembly this year. This summer, a parent group in California became the first such group to win a court battle to enforce the trigger. Should parent triggers be reconsidered in the upcoming legislative session?

As a mom, I have enjoyed the opportunity to have an impact at the schools my four children attended. From volunteer opportunities to curriculum recommendations to serving on committees, I have worked hard to make sure their needs were covered. And there are numerous paths for parents to make a difference.

But I do not think parents need a trigger law to allow them to do what they should be doing already by advocating for their children.

So often, everyone is looking for a quick fix. Taking over a school and subcontracting it out to a private group to deal with the headaches might sound like a good idea on the surface.

However, reports show that takeover schools in other states have no record of success. I wonder if the parents who want to take over schools have really bothered to get involved in their communities and their schools to see what could be done to improve circumstances for all children before they jump to support a sellout.

Studies suggest trigger laws divide communities, create stress among parents, and cause turmoil for students. We know parent triggers demoralize educators.

I agree with school reformer Diane Ravitch, who wonders why parents would want to take control of a school and hand it over to a private company. She asks whether the tenants of a public housing project have the same power to privatize their building. How about the patrons of a public library?

Ravitch asks if states could pass a law that might allow parents to sign a petition that forces the state to provide funding to fix a building, supply books, or provide special education services, and more. What kind of spark might those opportunities set off?

As a parent, I am concerned about class size, curriculum and course offerings. When I am not happy with how something is being done, I contact the teacher or administrator. If the issues are not resolved, I call school board members and speak at board meetings. I do have a way to make my voice heard.

As an educator, I support those same efforts, but I am also interested in ways to change how teachers are supported once they enter the profession, and I want more meaningful opportunities for parents to engage in school improvement.

I think Ravitch said it best when she said, “A public school is a public trust. It doesn’t belong to the students who are currently enrolled in it or their parents or to the teachers who currently teach in it. All of them are part of the school community and that community needs to collaborate to make the school better for everyone. Together, they should be able to redesign or create or discontinue programs and services. It is part of the public patrimony, not an asset that can be closed or privatized by its current constituents.”

I know that students benefit when trust is established and schools and the community collaborate. My kids are lucky to have schools that are open to all and parents choose whether to be involved. Each school exists beyond the bricks and mortar and I am proud to be a part of it.

A parent trigger law is not going to change the level of engagement of parents or community members. If everyone reached out to their local public schools to lend support rather than to take over, children would be far better for it. And isn’t that what our community should be about—building up, not tearing down?•

• Meredith is vice president of the Indiana State Teachers Association and has taught for more than 18 years in Indiana schools. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. I never thought I'd see the day when a Republican Mayor would lead the charge in attempting to raise every tax we have to pay. Now it's income taxes and property taxes that Ballard wants to increase. And to pay for a pre-K program? Many studies have shown that pre-K offer no long-term educational benefits whatsoever. And Ballard is pitching it as a way of fighting crime? Who is he kidding? It's about government provided day care. It's a shame that we elected a Republican who has turned out to be a huge big spending, big taxing, big borrowing liberal Democrat.

  2. Why do we blame the unions? They did not create the 11 different school districts that are the root of the problem.

  3. I was just watching an AOW race from cleveland in 1997...in addition to the 65K for the race, there were more people in boats watching that race from the lake than were IndyCar fans watching the 2014 IndyCar season finale in the Fontana grandstands. Just sayin...That's some resurgence modern IndyCar has going. Almost profitable, nobody in the grandstands and TV ratings dropping 61% at some tracks in the series. Business model..."CRAZY" as said by a NASCAR track general manager. Yup, this thing is purring like a cat! Sponsors...send them your cash, pronto!!! LOL, not a chance.

  4. I'm sure Indiana is paradise for the wealthy and affluent, but what about the rest of us? Over the last 40 years, conservatives and the business elite have run this country (and state)into the ground. The pendulum will swing back as more moderate voters get tired of Reaganomics and regressive social policies. Add to that the wave of minority voters coming up in the next 10 to 15 years and things will get better. unfortunately we have to suffer through 10 more years of gerrymandered districts and dispropionate representation.

  5. Funny thing....rich people telling poor people how bad the other rich people are wanting to cut benefits/school etc and that they should vote for those rich people that just did it. Just saying..............