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Jeff Meadors: Trigger Act would arm parents in fight for higher student achievement

Jeff Meadors

Jeff Meadors

Advocates of higher student achievement won't back down. Georgia state Rep. Edward Lindsey aims to introduce the Parent Trigger Act on day one of the 2013 Georgia General Assembly.

Trigger acts have passed in California, allowing parents to take over a chronically failing public school, petition a charter to the local board and now, given Amendment One, seek state appeal should local boards oppose.

Legislators will need to arrive at the definition of "chronically failing" now that adequate yearly progress (AYP) is no longer relevant. AYP was a determinant of failure in House Bill 731, which will now needs retooling.

The top 11 counties in Georgia favoring Amendment One in order of highest support are: Clayton, Newton, Henry, Douglas, Forsyth, Coweta, Fulton, Rockdale, Barrow, Cobb and DeKalb -- all with 64 percent or more of voters saying yes to school choice. In fact, 24 of Georgia's 159 counties approved Amendment One at or above 60 percent passage; that's more than 15 percent of Georgia with an additional 59 counties above the 50 percent mark. Together, more than half the state seeks options for improved student achievement.

Parent trigger legislation would allow taxpayers ripe with a win on Amendment One to turn a traditional school into a charter public school.

"The parents have to get a majority of the family households in the school to agree to it. They have to then put together a proposed charter and make a petition to the school boards," Lindsey said in an AJC report.

In California, parents simply need a 51 percent majority to take over chronically failing public schools to marshal reform.

At any rate, some parents aren't satisfied volunteering for cupcakes while relegated to the sidelines as school crime reports and low student achievement span media headlines.

Critics will mount challenges to the Parent Trigger Act, but the preponderance of poor student achievement data will likely be the army with which trigger advocates go to war.

Like it or not, advocates of choice, student achievement and greater accountability are locked and loaded and taking aim where leadership chronically fails students.

Will targeted schools survive inspection as legislators and advocates pack heat to improve student achievement?

Will a newly muscled ground game reinvent a vision for public education in Georgia in 2013?

Three decades after "A Nation at Risk," we are back to the future. Today, 70 percent of education providers believe they adequately prepare graduates for the job market; 70 percent of employers blame inadequate training for high youth unemployment. Military and business leaders told us this 30 years ago in Reagan's commissioned report.

At some point the puzzle needs a solution before triggers get pulled and we all get sent home with an "F" in leadership.

Jeff Meadors may be reached at pjeffreymeadors@gmail.com