What will it Take to Empower Parents in Georgia?

The Parent and Teacher Empowerment Act is on the move in Georgia and will lead to unprecedented power for parents in their kids' education.

In Louisiana, it took hurricane Katrina.  In Los Angeles, it took a "Parent Revolution."  In Georgia, what will it take to empower parents to engage in their children's education and to force the urgent and necessary changes that will guarantee a successful education and future for their kids?  A new bill that is working its way through the legislature in Georgia will open the gates to unprecedented input and control for parents over their children's education.  Rep. Ed Lindsey, along with Rep. Brooks Coleman, Rep. Jan Jones, Rep. Mike Glanton, Rep. David Casas, and Rep. Alisha Thomas-Morgan, has sponsored HB 123: the Parent and Teacher Empowerment Act.  The most current version of HB 123 in Georgia is linked here

The Parent and Teacher Empowerment act will allow a majority of parents OR a majority of teachers-faculty and instructional staff members- to convert an existing school into a charter school or to impose any of six possible turnaround models on a low-achieving school.  A low-achieving school is defined as a public school “that is in the lowest 20 percent of all public schools in this state based on school performance as determined by the Department of Education.”  Other guidelines that may lead to a school qualifying as “low-achieving” may include a school that has received an unacceptable rating on student achievement or on achievement gap closure.

While laws such as HB 123 are often referred to as “Parent Triggers,” the Georgia law that is being considered will also provide unprecedented power for teachers to effect complete makeovers of their schools without waiting decades for obvious problems to- perhaps? one day? -be addressed.  For communities which desire to convert their traditional public school into a public charter school, this act would give those parents and teachers new leverage. Most importantly, however, is a revolutionary transfer of decision-making power into the hands of parents.  Rather than continuing to waste the critical, precious hours of students every day in a classroom where learning has not been taking place, parents of these students can organize, sign a petition, or cast a vote that will transform their school.

For communities who simply want to force improvements in their own neighborhood schools, the Parent and Teacher Empowerment Act provides six possible turnaround models:

  • Removal of school personnel, including the principal.
  • Complete "reconstitution" of the school, removing all personnel, appointing a new principal, and hiring all new staff.
  • Relocation of a student, by the parent, into other public schools in the local school system according to a list provided by that school system.
  • Employment of a management team or monitor.
  • Preparation/implementation of an intensive student achievement plan.
  • Complete restructuring of the school's governance plan or its internal organization.

Although at times there have been some minute improvements in academic achievement in Georgia's schools, and some schools are very successful, the stubborn fact remains that this state struggles to attract businesses and lacks a well-prepared work force.  Georgia continues to score near the bottom in national education measures.  Most parents  appear to be lulled into hopeless acceptance of a system that is continuing to fail Georgia's students.  But this bill turns the current paradigm on its head and then gives parents and teachers new seats at the table.

Accepting the status quo and its control over your child's education in Georgia public schools is no longer going to be the necessary reality after the passage of the Parent and Teacher Empowerment Act.  The educational establishment cannot usurp the decision making authority of parents over their own children's education any longer if this law is passed.  The status quo educational leaders and lobbyists for the educational establishment in this state expect parents to sit down, shut up, bake some cookies, and "Leave it to the professionals."  With power to make crucial decisions and determinations about educational strategies, curriculum, models, and faculty, parents no longer must settle for being sidelined and ignored.  Georgia parents, teachers, and students should not silently wait years and years on the DOE- Department of Education- plan to work its supposed, repeatedly-promised magic when there is a genuine opportunity to be empowered instead.

-Rhonda Gatch

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

VianenBrederode February 25, 2013 at 03:49 PM
A majority of parents is not a majority of the representation of a school district. What about all the future parents, or parents of children not yet in the school system. This is highly undemocratic although not surprising coming from our extremely right wing government.
jMichael February 25, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Parental control of both curriculum and teaching qualifications is worthy. The danger, however, lies in the vulnerability of a parent-contrived curriculum to the moral corruption of Evangelicalism. I fear our 1st Amendment is not up to the challenge of withstanding the pernicious assault.
Jh312 February 25, 2013 at 07:08 PM
This bill assumes parental involvement. Herein lies the fundamental problem. Public schools in which the parents are very involved are usually successful already. At a bare minimum, we send our kids to school ready to behave as they should so the teachers can do their jobs. Here in Atlanta, many of the schools that are failing are also suffering from a lack of involved parents, on many levels. Some parents do not wish to do the work of parenting. Their children are undisciplined, and the parents would rather relinquish their responsiblities to the school system. Of course, these are the same parents who whine when that system "fails" to educate their kids. It is an unfair burden on the entire community. Until parents are held accountable for their own failures, we're not going to get anywhere. I disagree that the government is "extremely right wing," at least that's not the case with our local government in Atlanta. APS is far more concerned with projecting a politically correct picture of our district than with enforcing the growing discipline problems that weaken our schools. Take a look at what is now the slow demise of Inman Middle School.
jMichael February 25, 2013 at 07:50 PM
You are exactly on target. It is irresponsible parenting that accounts for the dismal failures of the APS. Irresponsible parenting, and an APS outrageously corrupted by slick and ethically compromised administrators and the Black "leaders" who defend them.


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