Thousands of Pennsylvania parents and students are urging state
lawmakers to pass a school reform bill to create a "parent trigger"
The parent trigger portion of the measure would allow parents to
replace staff or convert failing public schools to charter schools.
Priya Abraham of the Commonwealth Foundation points to a recent
report that reveals a decline in student achievement and a cheating
scandal involving administrators.
"This is really an issue about putting
control of kids' futures and education back where it belongs, and
that's in giving parents control," she asserts.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education recently released the
results of student test scores for 2011-2012, which show declining
student performance in public schools. Statewide, 25 percent of
children failed to reach proficiency in math, while nearly 30
percent cannot read at grade level. Furthermore, only 60 percent of
the state's 500 school districts made "Adequate Yearly Progress,"
compared to more than 90 percent last year.
And while the state has doubled its spending on public schools
over the past 15 years, only to produce "stagnating" SAT scores,
alternate institutions operate at a fraction of the cost with 97
percent of their graduates reaching post-secondary education.
The proposed law has been tied up in the legislature for a year.
But while students are stuck with the public school assigned to
them only by ZIP code, the Commonwealth Foundation senior policy
analyst contends the need for a change is urgent.
"The longer you wait for a child in a failing school, the more
likely you're going to get to the point where they graduate or they
drop out, and then it's just too late," Abraham explains. "So there
isn't enough time to just keep waiting."
Hundreds of students recently gathered on the steps of the state
capitol to urge lawmakers to do something, because this legislative
session is nearing its end.