Parents propose reform in school systems - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Parents propose reform in school systems

By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - A proposal in the legislature could give parents the muscle they need to force school systems to adopt drastic reforms.

The bill is patterned after the so-called parent trigger law in California.

It would allow parents to petition school systems to overhaul schools that fall below federal benchmarks.

School officials say the state is already involved in similar programs.

This proposal would allow parents to chose to convert an under performing school to a charter school, replace the staff, or even close it.

But school officials worry this gives parents too much influence over decisions they should be making.

There's no question Dougherty County schools want parents involved in what happens in their classrooms and some parents say they'd have it no other way.

"I'm very involved in her school, I try to help her with homework, I try to visit with the teacher while I'm there," said Timothy Robinson, Magnolia Elementary, Parent.

But school administrators think a proposal that could allow parents to force schools to take drastic steps to reform troubled schools goes too far.

"You can be involved and you can be supportive, but you have to be careful when you get a chance to make a major decision that says we're going to close school A or we're going to transform this school," said Dr. Joshua Murfree, Dougherty County School System Superintendent.

Dougherty County School leaders think they're already a step ahead of this proposal by participating in "Race to the Top".

It's a similar initiative aimed at troubled schools but allows the school systems to dictate how to fix the problems by training staff, closing a school, or firing both staff and administrators.

"The transitional model allows us to look at administrators it allows us to look at teachers it allows us to look at where we are in the system. The key point of choosing race to the top funds allows us to look at school improvement for the entire district," said Murfree.

Under the proposal one option allows parents to convert a public school to a charter school.

International Studies Charter School Principal Zeda George says their charter requires parents to participate in at least 18 hours a school year.

"We look forward to parents coming and being apart of our school. It's important for children to see my parents care enough about me to be involved," George said.

Many parents participate more. She's also skeptical about a plan that would allow parents to dictate what schools have to do.

Whether the proposal will move forward is up to the legislature.

School officials say by being one of the 26 system's in Georgia's "Race to the Top" program they'll be at the table to help set the standards that school systems must meet to improve schools.

The similar law in California is already under legal challenge because school officials have stalled parents efforts to convert a failing school to a charter school.


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