My View: How much parent power is too much?
March 28th, 2012
06:14 AM ET

My View: How much parent power is too much?

Courtesy Marilyn MargonBy Sam Chaltain, Special to CNN

Editor’s Note: Sam Chaltain is a Washington-based writer and education advocate. He can be found on Twitter at @samchaltain.

Should parents who are unhappy with their local school have the power to replace the entire staff, turn it into a charter school or shut it completely – even if just 51% of the school’s families agree?

It’s an enticing, polarizing proposal, the so-called “parent trigger.” It’s also now a law in four states and the subject of debate in scores of others. But is it a good idea? In the end, will parent trigger laws help parents more effectively ensure a high-quality public education for their children, or will they result in a reckless short-circuiting of the democratic process itself?

The answer, of course, is “it depends,” and what it depends on is the way parents and communities go about evaluating the quality of their neighborhood schools – and, when necessary, deciding on the most constructive path forward.

Here’s what we know: having more parents more directly engaged in the education of their children is a highly desirable goal. If teachers are the incremental x-factor to a student’s success in school, parents are the exponential p-factor to their child’s success both in school and in life.  So I’m for anything that has the chance to help parents better understand what great teaching and learning really looks like – and requires.

We also know that for far too long, a family’s ZIP code has determined their child’s access to the American dream, and too many neighborhood schools have failed to inspire and elevate the passions and possibilities of the students they serve. So I’m also for anything that gives poor families better choices when it comes to where their child goes to school.

But here’s the rub: If people want to be effective as a group, they must agree on exactly what it is they want to do and how they want to go about it. And from what I can tell, the organization at the center of the storm over these laws, a California-based group called Parent Revolution, hasn’t paid sufficient attention to how the parents they work with will make thoughtful, informed decisions. That’s troubling, because absent a clear, deliberative process, ideas like a parent trigger law will be little more than recipes for discord and dissent, not pathways to better schools for the kids who deserve them.

What should we do instead? Why not equip every American citizen with two books: Robert’s Rules of Order – the guide that has been used since 1867 to help groups of people make sound decisions; and How People Learn, the National Research Council’s helpful summary of the latest research about learning and the brain. (We could even get an entity like the Gates Foundation to pay for them.) Then we could urge people across the country to start wrestling more actively with a small set of “best questions”: How do people learn best? What are the characteristics of an optimal learning environment? And how can we create an environment like that at [your neighborhood school]?

The advantage of arming every citizen this way would be twofold: Our conversations about schooling would become grounded in the latest research about learning, and our efforts to deliberate in diverse groups would become more equitable and efficient. After all, one of the paradoxes of democracy is that in order to exercise freedom responsibly, we must impose a certain level of regulation - simple structures lead to complex thinking.

Will a national book club of this sort make all our problems and disagreements over school reform go away? Of course not. But imagine if all this local energy and activism was informed by a deeper shared consideration of the art and science of teaching, learning and decision-making. Creating a healthy school is difficult to do, and quick actions taken by desperate families will never yield lasting recipes for success. Only when we have a clearer sense of how to evaluate the current state of our schools can we explore what needs to be done to make them better.

Anything less is little more than a nation of parents with itchy trigger fingers – and that’s never good for democracy.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Sam Chaltain.


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  5. *Whitney Ferre

    Sam, bravo! I totally agree. Also, there should be an online venue for the stories of these schools, the successes and the challenges so that parents can stay current and believe that meaningful change is possible. Sounds like the more "creatively fit" the group is the greater there chances will be of creating change! Whitney

    March 31, 2012 at 12:14 am |
  6. Nicole

    ...and it's people like you who wrongly equate poverty with ineffectiveness.

    March 30, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
  7. Amy

    What a provocative idea for parents to be able to do this. True it could be disastrous in a community without a common goal. If you were a parent in a school system as non responsive to parent concerns as ours you would know just how intriguing a possibility this could be. It seems so long as we give the appropriate kind of parent support and involvement–ie volunteer lots of time and money –we have reached their expectations for parent involvement, any other input from us is clearly not wanted or heard.

    March 29, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
  8. A Mid-90s Baby

    I believe morals and education should not be seperate. Learning should be encouraged at home as much as at school. Morality and manners should be encouraged in both settings as well.
    With humans and human society, there's never, ever a perfect fix. I'm 17, but I understand this. However, there are many simple ways we can be better tomorrow than we were yesterday. Maybe you should ask kids of different ages what they think. School involves kids too–involve them in this reform process.

    March 29, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
  9. A Mid-90s Baby

    If there's trouble, parents and teachers need to work together. I have experienced the best and worst of schools in the past 13 years of attending. I've been beaten by students (and se.xually abused, though I didn't know it at the time,) among other things. But I've also succeeded. I've had good teachers in high school who worked with me, and parents when needed. Cooperation is key. Open dialogue and open mind is right. If you have those two things, everything can be resolved.

    March 29, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  10. Matt

    Our teachers put up with too much crap from the students and the parents. If the kids are disruptive and not there to learn, then kick them out and let the parents deal with them. Period. Kids just show up for something and parents want to give them a trophy. We have lost our minds in this country. Grow some balls parents! Your kids need parents, not another friend. If they don't want to learn or at least try to do well in school, then there should be consequences....not trophies!

    March 29, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  11. lefthook

    You see... I think the educational model and therefore the system is what is affecting good results. We have a top down model/system in which at the top there are bureaucrats in policy making, in between administrators that become enforcers of ill design educational plans, and at the very bottom of the food chain you have teachers, the soldiers in the trenches really fighting the battle. The fundamental issue is that learning does not take place in neither the offices of the high members of government nor at the offices of principals and superintendents, Learning takes place in the classroom as teachers and students interact. Therefore until you follow a model that begins from the inside (classroom) where the learning takes place to the outside (where learning does not take place) we won't be able to make substantial results.
    The teachers ...the savvy professionals on the ground should be dictating the pace and direction in policy should be something more like having the teacher saying.. this is what I need to get this job done..these are the resources I need..these are the logistics..we need a stronger social work presence in schools...we need family and community involvement and accountability...we need student accountability...administrators and top officials make sure this is happening.
    Then you'll see a change... If you need heart surgery you do not want a dentist, an engineer, an economist in the operating room...You need the heart surgeon doing the job and leading the procedure, and logistics.
    We are having the lady at the counter and the nurses telling the heart surgeon what to do.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  12. Dan I

    One significant problem with a "parent trigger" is that there are WAY too many "Not my little Johnny" or "If Becky is failing it's the SCHOOL'S fault" parents out there. Too many parents thing their kids are perfect angels who always get straight A's and are just "misunderstood" or being discriminated against.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • Nitin Laud

      Education is not about Reading, Writing, Math, Science. It is about knowledge, it is about being disciplined, civilized, respecting others. Knowledge cannot be just given by the giver, it also needs to be taken by the reciever. This is taught at home, not in school. Parents and families are our first teachers, and so are your neighbors and community, even before we start school. If you have been raised properly, shown the value of education, have a quest for knowledge, respect for peers, elders and teachers, you will be succesful in schools, no matter what kind of teachers you get. We don't live in a perfect world, but those who want to be successful, will find their way and those who always complain, will always complain. Let the teachers do the teaching, if we allow them to spend less time on disciplining kids (which would not happen if parents taught them the right values), teachers would do a better job. As a parent, I have been blessed with two wonderful boys, who love to go to school, take their home works and tests seriously, but that's because my wife and I brought them up that way. I spend my time with them at home because I want them to be successful and good citizens. The teachers can only do so much and I appreciate what they do, but I have the responsibilty towards my kids. I understand poor people don't have the resources, but if they look for them, there are a lot of volunteer agencies (I myself volunteer my time for some) who will gladly help with home work, tutoring. All of us stand to gain by poor people getting out of poverty.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  13. anindependent572

    If you, as a parent, are disatified with the education, you need to be more involved with your child. I am a former teacher. Ask youself the following questions.
    1. Did my child have sufficient sleep?
    2. Does my child go to school after a nutritious breakfast?
    3. Did my child complete all assignments? Do you review homework nightly?
    4. When did you last sit down with your child and ask him/her about his/her day?
    These are very important thing that the school can not do for you children. If they are not being done, you child is not prepared to learn.
    I know parents are burdened by work and home responsibilities but teachers are "in loco parentes" – in place of the parent for 6 hours out of 24.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  14. nicolamonk

    ...what? Your suggestion is to give parents books?

    The issue is one of poverty. Families in truly failing schools have high levels of poverty and low levels of educational attainment. 'Standard American English' is usually not spoken at home, AAVE and Spanish are. You may as well be asking me to understand advanced physics.

    These kids are high needs. Parental involvement is great, but really not realistic. Parents in these neighborhoods often do not know what a high quality education should look like. They don't understand why their kindergardener doesn't do worksheets all day or why their fifth grader is starting pre algebra. And, in many families, surviving and paying rent are paramount- they remain at the lowest levels of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. And in some, drugs and crime have taken over the household

    We need more funding for schools. We need small class sizes in the early grades, 8 weeks of summer school, and 8 hour school days. We need high quality after school programs that inspire these kids to work harder and give them a sense of achievement. We need all of the kids getting two years of high quality preschool for at least 3 hours a day, and before that we need parent child play groups where we teach parents how to effectively interact with their children and catch kids who are developmentally delayed. We need individual and small group tutoring for many of the kids, and it needs to start right when they begin to fall behind. We need social services and medical services provided within the schools.

    I live in one of these high poverty school districts. We spend $1k less per student than the state average. $2.5 k less per student than a comparably sized school district in our richest large city (we are one of the poorer large cities), it also happens to be 30 minutes away. My neighborhood school is so overcrowded that they walled off the school stage and are using it for office space. We have 28-30 kindergarteners per class with no teaching assistant. Each year we have more and more kids, estimates are 300-400 more kids per year. Last year we opened the first new school in over a decade, it can house around 500 students. I'm sure they could cram in 600-700. We shut down a condemnable school housing 300 students. So we've housed the kids we'll add this year. And in a year, or two, that condemned school will reopen.

    I'd love a solution.

    March 29, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • anindependent572

      Well said.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:09 am |
  15. pam

    My grandson had a little singing thing at his school the other day, and before hand the principle made an announcement about when the next PTO meeting was going to be and asked how many people could she count on to show up. Not one parent raised their hand.

    March 29, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  16. Sigamoney Naicker

    Education depends on being brought up in a culture that promotes and supports education. Anything contrary is a disaster. Yes, there are exceptions. Some children succeed despite what happens around them but those are the exceptions. You cannot generalize from exceptions

    March 29, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  17. krehator

    Are you kidding me? Teacher are constantly trying to overrule parents. I constantly have to battle it out with schools that think they can tell me how to raise my children. These schools need to stay in their lane, and stop making up excuses why they cannot provide a better education. They don't come to my job and help me out.

    March 29, 2012 at 2:55 am |
    • Hopeful

      I believe that, in every job, people would like to be respected as a human being and for doing their job. Having been on both sides of this fence over a long period of time I have seen a deep decline in respect for authority, for peers, for others. Teaching time has been reduced while I deal with behavioral issues. Students who come to school to learn and cooperate in the learning process are robbed by the students who come to control and abuse. I may not "help you do your job," for the simple reason that my child is not part of your job. As a teacher all I ever asked was that parents take responsibility for being a partner in their child's education. Education flows between classrooms and homes. If you are "constantly battling" then it is time to sit down and look at why. List out your battles and look at what the real cause is. Is there an alternative to the "battle" scenario? Who is the real victor in these battles and who is the one that really, in the long term of life, loses? At the top of your list should be WHAT IS BEST FOR MY CHILD when he/she will be living his/her own life? How do I want my child to be viewed as an adult: a contributing, considerate member of society or a bully?

      March 29, 2012 at 5:13 am |
    • AstroD

      "They don't come to my job and help me out." Would you let them if they did go to your job and tried to help you out?

      March 29, 2012 at 7:54 am |
      • lefthook

        Right...So the teacher is not supposed to Raise your child and teach him respect and self control..Agreed the teacher is NOT going to do your job...Do your job as a parent...The teacher is not going to waste time and energy in dealing with domestic predicaments that are out of the scope of the profession...the job as a teacher is merely academic/intellectual. Do not send your kid if he is not ready to be a part of a collegiate body in pursue of high academic standards. Find help for your family problems.
        Teachers are not supposed to be dealing with your family drama/predicament...they are not trained in that area of social work.

        March 29, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Cielo

      HAHA! I have NEVER "over ruled" a parent! It's a MIRACLE when I can get them to attend a parent-teacher conference or even to have a CURRENT and WORKING phone number! But man, they sure are quick to run to the principal when their little darling starts failing classes! Not to ME, of course, but to the principal who does NOT teach the student all week for 36 weeks each year. Sometimes I feel that parents have ZERO clue what education entails and even worse, could care less about it.

      March 29, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  18. iamcanadian

    Until you fix the issues of poverty in America you will not be able to educate the poor. Parents of low socioeconomic status often have less time and available resources to offer their children. Living in crime ridden neighborhooods is another issue. The one issue I cannot get my head around as we don't have this in Canada yet, are the metal detectors in school with police roaming the halls. How can anyone learn in that environment? How can you have schools with over 1000 highschool students? Its crazy. Where do kids think they can talk back to teachers? What about parents who tell the teacher off in front of their children? Everyone has to do their part because kids need to have opportunities to better themselves, its not an American dream it is an American reality and they can achieve it with the right environment. What I love about Americans is their passion to claim what they want. If parents want better education they can get it, but education begins at home.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • WWRRD

      You make some good points.

      March 29, 2012 at 7:32 am |
    • Zakary

      I am currently a senior in a Rhode Island High School. My school currently has enrolled 1300-1400 students and that number usual stays the same every year. It actually is not that difficult to teacher that many students as long as you have the classrooms and teachers available. As to the metal detector issue, I have never attended a school where there has been a metal detector or police involvement (other than our local police resource officer in the school). I think that it is ridiculous that schools need to be guarded and children need to be screened to get into school. When that happens, you know there is something going on in the neighborhoods surrounding the school and town. And by no means am I arguing with you, just adding my $0.02. 🙂

      March 29, 2012 at 7:36 am |
  19. Artimus

    I agree with many of the concerns that this article identifies. The author supplies many facts to support his conclusions about the “parent trigger.” I also agree with the suggested solutions to the problem stated in the article. Many of his arguments are relevant to people I know, including myself. However, the article did not make me feel strongly in favor or against the “parent trigger.”
    The author of the article, Sam Chaltain, expressed many concerns that I feel should be addressed with this law. Schools employ hundreds of people; this means that parents could cause people who have studied for years and put a lot of work into their career to lose their jobs. Another problem with this law is that it may only require fift-one percent of parents to agree on a course of action. Even if teachers did work as hard as possible, there are still students out there who will fail, because they do not try and drag the average of the class down. These are just some of the concerns the article addresses.
    In the article, the author states that this law could be beneficial for everyone should it be carried out correctly by parents and other parties involved. He mentions two books: Robert's Rules of Order and How People Learn. He says that people will probably make better choices if they are informed on the subject they are making a choice about. In my experience, this is generally true. I would also like to say that an alternative to the books would be seminars that parents attend on making choices regarding their child's education.
    This law, should it pass in all states, will affect all students, parents, and teachers in the country. In the article, it is said that parents have the ability to close down a school with majority vote. Being a student, this would not be the worst day of my life, but it could actually slow the learning process further by creating complications. In some cases, it could even put students behind by a year. Do not forget about the teachers and other staff that would be out of jobs because of this as well.
    To conclude, I feel more people should see this article. It could provide some invaluable advice to parents who find themselves in districts that have this law. As with everything, exercise caution when using the new powers you parents will have. Remember to always keep your child's education in mind.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:00 am |
  20. Moncada

    This article made me remember when I first earned how to read English- in the 3rd Grade.
    My parents are both Spanish speaking but my mother is also a English speaker, I learned Spanish at home but my mother would always make me read an English book and help me. In school the teacher helped me too.
    All it takes is cooperation.

    March 28, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
  21. ytuque

    How are uneducated parents in poor minority neighborhoods going to run a school?

    March 28, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • WWRRD

      They are uneducated and therefore think they know. It takes education to realize what you don't know.

      March 29, 2012 at 7:30 am |
  22. Lefthook

    Education is a science... the problem is that policies are made by bureaucrats that have never stepped in a classroom and have no clue whatsoever about the ins and outs of instructional design and human performance, and also by educational administrators (the worse kind) which betray all they were taught, betray their own colleagues, betray their own education philosophy and become mere puppets of the system.
    If you need brain surgery you don't want the industrial engineer in the operating room... let the professionals handle it. Every one feels they have an expert opinion on the matter...take a hike

    March 28, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • Mark Russell

      Unfortunately, education is not a scientific profession; it is a fad driven one.

      March 28, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
      • PublicEducationBites

        Amen to that. There ARE good teachers, and they could all fit into a phone booth.

        The rest are Marxist, indoctrinating drunks and pervs.

        March 29, 2012 at 12:26 am |
      • lefthook

        You do not have a clue about education...see people like you should go to a library and find out all the body of research in education and human development that has been conducted for over a 100 years.
        You are just saying this off the top of your head.

        March 29, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  23. Jeff @ National Academies Press

    Hi Sam,

    Regarding your suggestion that every American citizen be equipped with "Robert's Rules of Order" and the National Research Council's "How People Learn": we can help with one of those. The full text of "How People Learn" can be read and downloaded as a PDF from our website,, by, well, every American citizen. Anyone at all, in fact.

    Click the Download Free PDF button when you get here:

    Thank you for the mention!

    March 28, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • samchaltain

      Thanks Jeff! I'll share this news far and wide.

      March 29, 2012 at 8:04 am |
  24. cc

    "having more parents more directly engaged in the education of their children is a highly desirable goal" It depends on the parents-and *forcing* parents to take time off so they can help teachers is wrong. Some parents need to keep working to keep their kids clothed, fed, and sheltered-which is more important, that they take care of their kids or help out a teacher who makes more than they do? Let the teachers do their job-teach, and let the parents who want to get involved do so. But don't force them.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • cj

      The point isn't taking time off to help teachers. It is about parents doing their job and being PARENTS. In so many schools there is no parental support. When their kid misbehaves, no consequences at home. If their child is failing, they don't take the time to see if they have homework. If their child is in trouble, can't be bothered with it. If more parents actually took an interest in their children, and took an interest in their learning it would be a different story. But too many people have kids, and can't be bothered doing the parenting work.

      March 28, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
      • tim

        you are so right when you said that parents have to monitor or to always find out, very day, how well their children are doing in school. Often time they should check on how much their children can comprehend at every subject.

        March 29, 2012 at 7:38 am |
  25. Jason

    Schools need more participation from parents that haven't participated before, not more power given to the uppity, Uber-PTA moms.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  26. Oakspar77777

    The successful education of a student has nothing to do teachers. A series of bad teachers, year after year, can ruin a child, but even 12 years of great students will no save a student.

    Instead, it is genetics and upbringing.

    If a student is taught to read and write before the first day of school, then school will be easy for the child, filled with positive reinforcement, and enjoyable. Furthermore, the tasks of reading a writing will be associated with parental attention, something that we are genetically hardwired to crave as children. Those students will go on to great success in public schools, so long as they are sufficiently challenged and don't develop patterns of laziness.

    If a student shows up on page one on day one, they will never compete with their peers and it does not take long before the impossibility of being "good" at learning becomes a distaste for learning. We always love what we are good at and avoid what we are bad at – it is basic ego protection.

    Obviously if a student is disabled or delayed, these things are unavoidable for even the best of parents, and public schools are likely the worst choice, since public schools mainstream students, when students with special needs need special attention.

    Blame the teachers all day long, but a well trained student will get a great education in a mediocre system because his parents will have raised him to do so.

    March 28, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Allen

      I didn't know how to read when I reached school. I played at home. I remember my teacher's name, Mrs. Curtis, and the moment I knew I could read. We were reading a book and she asked me what it said on the building, I replied "apartment." A very fine teacher, Mrs. Curtis taught me and that class to read. That is what teaching is about, not what "parents' do.

      March 28, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • oateoateo

      I cannot disagree more. School was very important in my family growing up. I worked hard, and this was reinforced at home. I excelled at school, received full scholarships to college and to pursue two advanced degrees. I had great academic success. My husband was raised quite differently, and suffered academically as a result. In raising our daughter, we discussed how we wanted to present learning and success. Despite our tender and repeated efforts to encourage reading, complete homework and love school, she simply does not. Learning is a huge struggle for her, and our efforts usually end in arguments. As much as I hate to say it, some kids simply struggle in the public school environment that is driven by standardized test scores. We knew she was having trouble beginning in pre-K, and talked to her teachers about it every year. However, we were repeatedly assured that she was "progressing fine" and "achieving grade-appropriate goals". It wasn't until her standardized test scores fell that the school decided to intervene. Even with that, they refuse to conduct testing to determine if she has a learning disability, as she is "not that far behind". We work with her in an encouraging way, we have hired a tutor, and we will pay out of pocket for testing. I feel fortunate that we have the means to do so, but I am also QUITE certain that our highly-regarded public school system has failed her. We are now pursuing private school education. I think that the public school system is broken, not because of lack of parental involvement, but too much political crap.

      March 29, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  27. durundal

    considering how our society is disproportionately braindead, you might want to muzzle the 'majority'. May be a hobbesian outlook, but many of these 'concerned parents' are a joke, and are raising their kids to be the same

    March 28, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Allen

      When I was a kid my parents didn't hang out at the school checking on what the teacher was or was not teaching. Today our classrooms have become a liberal experiment for equitable outcomes. No kid gets left behind and everyone gets a gold star. The class is dumbed down, so the lazy kid isn't left feeling bad about themselves. So the normal kids, those with average intelligence and attention spans aren't pushed to their limits, but allowed to continue in mediocrity. That is what teaching is about today, mediocrity, let's get everyone to pass the minimum standards. Teaching was at one time a calling, like missionary work or being a preacher. The outcome was the goal. Unions have changed the goal to income and teaching has paid the price.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
      • FreeReally

        Well said!

        March 28, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  28. dowhatifeellike

    The current generation of parents (my generation, though I am childless), always blame the school and never their child; their child can do no wrong. Anything said negatively about their child or their child's education is interpreted as a personal attack on both the child and the parent. Parents need less control of the schools, not more. Helicopter parents are already ruining the next generation; they make sure their child never experiences difficulty or failure, thus removing all life lessons from childhood.

    March 28, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  29. Robert's Rules

    People don't have enough reading comprehension to figure out the race of characters in The Hunger Games. Do you really think they'll be able to read and understand Robert's Rules of Order? Maybe the Dr. Seuss version. Seriously, though, parents do need to take an active role in education, as long as they work with the teachers and not against them. Too often a teacher will tell a parent something about a child only to have the parent immediately disregard it as being untrue. "My child would never do that." Open dialogue and open minds are the keys to improving education.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Robin

      Did you really mean that parents should ONLY work with teachers, not against them? What if the teacher isn't working with the parent? As the mother of a special education student I try to work with the teachers to make sure my son is getting the best education he can, but there are always teachers who don't want to "get with the program" so to speak. Then what am I supposed to do? So many teachers (I've also worked in education) give lip service to parent involvement but resent it if the parent isn't towing their party line. It's really a damned if you damned if you don't situation sometimes.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • WhatNow

      Good point. I really don't know when that started. Growing up my brothers and I were assumed guilty until proven innocent when the teacher sent home the note! My parents supported the teachers.

      March 28, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  30. Kay

    I too live in Washington State, and the WS public education system has been found GUILTY TWICE of not correctly funding BASIC education. Yet, Teachers and Administrators want MORE of my time and MORE of my money. I will NOT give them another second or another dime until Teachers Unions go away and Administrators are paid a reasonable salary – NOT the 100+k they pull in now. I vote no on every levy and will continue to do so, I would rather pay $800 a month for private school than fund an inept lazy school system.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Kay

      I also understand that Parents need to be involved and support the schools. But, when I can't get rid of a lazy teacher because the Union says they have seniority, and my child's education is not being properly funded, why would I support them? Give me some power to make a choice, then I'll support you.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
      • tim

        I agree with you. I hate to support a school system that is not helping my children to achieve their best potential. Matter of fact, I would complain to make sure the system is doing the right thing for the betterment of my childrens' future. But then of course, as parents, we have a duty to help the system by making sure that our children are well behaved and teachable.

        March 29, 2012 at 8:02 am |
      • Sarah Caldwell--Atlanta, Georgia

        Two things

        1. Check the performance of students in states, like Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama, that don't have unions to protect teachers. Unions are not the problem.

        2. You have the same power to control your child's school that you have to control the pothole on your street or the zoning in your neighborhood. You can vote.

        March 30, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  31. Burbank

    A good education depends more in the parent's involvement such as making sure the kids do their homework and dishing out consequences (punishment) for bad behavior in school than it does on the teachers or school system. My first grade class had 52 kids and we all got a great education because the parents got involved and did what was stated above. If the kids misbehaved it was reported to the parents and the parents backed the teachers up! Only one or two kids did not do well and that was due more to a below average IQ than any other factor.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • WWRRD

      YUP! If I got in trouble at school , I really hated what would happen when I got home. Makes all the difference.

      March 29, 2012 at 7:35 am |
  32. Laudan Espinoza

    I just don't get it. I live in Washington State, we are having record short falls for education budgets. We spend near the highest amount nationally per student on education and still have failing performance. Obviously throwing money at the problem DOES NOT WORK! I have two young children, not in school yet, believe me they will not be going to a public school. Catholic schools educate children better, for cheaper; what does that tell us? The public system is broken. Teacher unions and outrageously compensated administrators have bankrupted public schools. I can spend $300/month for my child to attend catholic school, k-8. They will have the best education and a great social network. Parents need more power.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • tomsmail

      Don't forget to include in the money wasted on worthless programs...things which should be cut, or have discussion about reduction.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • caliwoman

      hahaha good luck with $300 catholic school

      March 28, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  33. Tree of Knowledge

    I have served as a coach for three years and am currently serving as a teacher's assistant. I have had numerous interactions with both students and their parents. Education is a total three prong approach: The student, the teacher and the parent. It has been my exepreince that the most interaction comes between the student and the teacher. Parents are often left out of the loop. Think about it – when you ask your child what they did in school today – what is their response? This lack of communication can cause many problems. Parents don't take an active stand unless something goes wrong, teachers don't take an active stand until we are confronted and many times the student takes a stand when they feel that they are getting the "raw end of the deal".

    Communication is always the answer. So, here is my proposal. Students – make sure that you talk about you schooling with your parents. Dicuss homework assignments, projects, essays and anything interesting that has happend in class during the day. Parents – do not wait until something bad happens to set foot in the classroom. Constantly e-mail and talk to your child's teacher and even ask for updates on their grades, participation and behavior in class. Teachers – take the time to get to actually know your kids. With that, take some extra time to get to know their parents too. Invite parents into the classroom thorughout the school year and to assist with projects throughout the year.

    All of this mess can be avoided by communicating.
    There, that is a leaflet of information from the Tree of Knowledge.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:23 pm |

    My feeling is schools need to go back to when I was in school. When coaches asked teachers for progress reports on the athletes and if you had a grade less then a "C", you were benched or sat out for one week until the next progress report was received. For 2 years of middle school and 4 years of High school for my daughter, I fought the schools and the coaches about this and what they told me......."IF YOU DON'T WANT YOUR DAUGHTER TO RUN OR BE INVOLVED IN THE SPORT THEN YOU SIT HER OUT...." What bull crap...... Al lot of this has to do with the NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND LAW, which I feel needs to go away.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  35. Mark

    It is interesting that as schools sought more and more parental input, parental oversight has become more and more a problem. While it may seem the more input the better, all research shows the larger the group making decisions, the harder it becomes to come to a decison people will either agree on or uphold with enthusiam/confidence. As schools take on greater social engineering tasks, it only makes sense more and more parents will want input. I think the educational system has gone beyond manageability and the only way I see it going if it does not get back to basics is to take more control and lock parents out. It will not stay the same and now education has been labelled as a national security venture. That means the government will be taking more control of children and parents will have less and it will resolve the helicopter mentality by grounding those whirly birds.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  36. History Bear

    Given that extra curricular activities are often the tail wagging the dog in public education, the unhappiness with losing teams or who's on the cheer squad etc. could lead to dismissal of otherwise effective instructional staff because they aren't producing winners. Public education has quiet a few problems but allowing parents to shut down a school because they are unhappy isn't a valid solution. Parents also need to understand that their child isn't always right or blameless and that without parental discipline school discipline isn't.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  37. OMG

    There are always some bad parent, and bad teacher, so if the teacher is bad kick she/he out, if the parent bad, kick the kid out. SIMPLE

    March 28, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • tim

      To me that is the best solution. We don't want the bad apple affect the good ones.

      March 29, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • tim

      It is so true that us parents are more responsible for the failure and success of our children. Some parents are just leaving everything to the teachers and the system to enlighten their children. Some are very supportive in many way possible to make sure that their children are doing their best in school.

      March 29, 2012 at 8:34 am |
  38. tedjen64

    @WWRRD: I have a few questions about your assessment of the situation. Even if the parents are poor, don't they care to see that their kid(s) have a better chance for themselves by having a better education than they did? I know of several kids whose parents are poor right in my own city, they qualify for free/reduced lunch, etc. Their parents are pushing them to excel, so the kids don't suffer the way they did from not doing well in school. Sometimes, I feel like the teachers and some of the parents & teachers have given up on their kids/students; not because they are POOR, but because they think it's no good out there; there's racism, there's a bad economy, there's all kind of trouble out there in the big bad world...and they give up. Poor shouldn't be an excuse for not trying, striving to better should be motivation to struggle, to rise, to excel, to shine.....

    March 28, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • WWRRD

      I agree with your assessment. This does happen but sadly only a small percentage of the time. I was fortunate because I came from a poor family and thanks to my parent's pushing me I was the first ever college graduate that my family produced. Sadly, when I attend school PTA meetings my kids I see the same parents there time after time. They are the parents of the successful students. Go to the basketball game though and the crowd is much , much different. The parents of the lesser students can't make it to meetings about academics, but they seem to find time for "the game"!

      March 28, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  39. Chris

    My question is where the parent's priorities are. I have attended School Board meetings with budget discussions on the agenda. You would not believe the number of parents who stand up and say "If you cut SPORTS my child will NOT attend school in this district". As a parent I am appalled by the idea of sacrificing academics (which benefit the majority of students) for sports (which benefits a minority). Of course, pay-to-play is useless as parents then complain "we're low income, we shouldn't have to pay for our kids to play sports" and the district then allows these students to play full of charge, thereby AGAIN putting an unfair burden on those parents who are not considered low income.

    Parents DEMAND too much from their school districts. Parents should be responsible for providing nutritious food, clothing, etc and making sure their children arrive at school prepared to learn, which means making sure homework is done, lessons are studied and the students actually SHOW UP ready to learn. No wonder our nation is falling behind educationally. A school cannot be all things to all students.

    March 28, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • imastarchick

      Why do you think academics are the way the majority of students learn or benefit from education? Well rounded people are the most successful throughout their lives. This country was founded, built and became great though well rounded hard working people. That means a balance of academics and physical endeavors like sports and music/arts. No strong education would be complete by eliminating one for the other. And this is what top American colleges expect students to have as well. Its a travesty that our educators and off balance folks like yourself dont understand this.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
      • kerri

        Yes,clearly the people who founded America played football, basketball and other sports that didn't exist and it made them well-rounded people.

        March 28, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • Donna

      Chris has hit the right response! As a retired teacher I concur. Most teachers try to educate any and all students. But so many students come to school without breakfast, homework, clean clothes, materials, etc. I supplied many items that students did not bring, but could not change family issues that often would affect a student's ability to concentrate and learn any given day. I retired early because I could no longer deal with students who were in school, but not prepared mentally, emotionally, or physically to learn. I love kids and was always told what a caring teacher I was, but I could no longer care as I watched students waste school time on socializing and poor behavior instead of learning.

      March 28, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • kerri

      I think you are absolutely right.

      March 28, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  40. Leila

    There is no doubt that parents are a crucial variable in a child's learning and overall success. A high school teacher myself, I appreciate and welcome the input and support I receive from my students' parents. I don't believe that parents have any desire to overhaul their children's schools! When parents are engaged in a regular dialogue with all their child's teachers (in my school, that would be a total of 6 teachers), usually parents and teachers work quite well together to ensure the child's success. It is only when there is NO communication that the parent then feels as if they must take drastic measures. Most parents know that test scores alone are not the final arbiter in determining a person's success or abilities; that is why the SAT scores are only PART of what universities take into consideration when a student applies. I have really gifted students who test 'average' or basic and I have average students who test proficiently. Parents know their kids' abilities and don't typically place a huge premium on their kids' test scores.

    March 28, 2012 at 10:49 am |
  41. mmyers6167

    As a former teacher with 27 years experience, I can tell many horror stories of militant parents who stepped in and tried to tell me how to run my class. It didn't matter to them that I was the one who had two degrees and decades of very successful teaching experience. It also didn't matter that they had never set foot in my class to see what was actually going on. They were relying on distorted information from their spoiled brat child. The really bad thing that the child learned in many of these situations was: you don't have to really work in life to succeed. Its who your daddy is and who they know. There is shortcut to success if your parents complain loudly enough.

    Too many times in my experience, the campus and district administration gave credit or substance to these militant parents which cost me hours and hours of time explaining and justifying what I did was correct and fair to their child, and that the same standard was applied to everyone else in the educational process.

    It is a scary thought that 51% of parents would be given the power to fire an entire school facility. Many times, during the educational journey to get from point A to point B, virtually 100% of the students and parents are unhappy. Change is not pretty but must be endured to achieve success. It is a frightening thought that the unqualified masses might cost me my job.

    If you are a parent reading this, take time to introduce yourself to your child's teacher. Offer your help and support in any way that you can to make your child's education a success. Be a partner, not a foe. That is the true way to ensure a better education for your child.

    March 28, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • wcovenant

      Here is where separation of teacher and parent responsibilities should look like. A parent is responsible to teach their children strong moral principles, ensure they have the basic skills to read, write, simple math, some basic science and to treat others as he/she would want to be treated. The teacher is to only build on core subjects alone. Teachers are not to teach their own moral principles. When a student is not learning these core educational skills or disrupts the class, then a parent teacher conference is needed.

      March 28, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • History Bear

      I agree. As a teacher, coach, counselor and administrator for 27 years my greatest problem was always the parent who felt that their child was a star or a genius and that we couldn't see it, therefore give that child an A or a starting spot on the team or recommend for a scholarship etc. regardless of what was actually going on.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
      • Mark hit that nail directly on the head. I was HS coach for 8 years and I your words could not be more true. What causes it to be worse is these parents usually are involved in Bosster clubs, etc. and use that as an additional club to get what they want. Good post.

        March 28, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  42. WWRRD

    The fact that Zipcode is a deciding factor of a kid's potential to succeed is not a cause, it is a a symptom and that is why the whole school quality argument is framed incorrectly. Poor parents are either ineffective or uneducated. They live in poor neighborhoods. Because they are either ineffective or uneducated, they are ill equipped to provide the guidance and instruction to their children that more effective, better educated parents provide to theirs.

    Our district has grown increasingly urban and poorer over the last 15 years. Many of the schools have the same teachers and the same facilities, yet test scores have consistently fallen as the poorer minority population has grown. The problem isn't the schools or the teachers, it is the parents and the socio-economic environment associated with being poor.

    March 28, 2012 at 9:26 am |