Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ker-blooey! That's the sound of schools with which parents are dissatisfied being blown up if HF 2580 (Loon-R-Eden Prairie) were to pass. The bill would empower parents to request a school district intervention in a persistently low-performing school. In order to request an intervention, parents who represent 51 percent of the students would have to file a petition with the school board of the district (or governing board of a charter school). Upon receipt of the petition, the school would be required to employ one of the four "turnaround" interventions outlined in federal law for persistently underperforming schools.

There are four turnaround models, including one which closes the school entirely, and each one calls for a radical re-configuring of the school environment, starting with the dismissal of the principal. The primary difference between this and current federal turnaround guidelines is that the process is started by parents. While parental choice and involvement is welcome in the educational process, one wonders if this pushes the envelope a bit too far and compromises the intention of the federally-determined turnaround process.

The group promoting HF 2580 is a newly-minted education organization called Students First, which is led nationally by former Washington, D.C., school district chancellor. Students First joins the plethora of new education "reform" groups that has sprung over the past couple of years. The common theme of these groups seems to be that the education system in the United States is rotting from the inside out and that radical change, including the discarding of teacher seniority and promotion of charter schools (and other alternative learning environments), is needed.

It is difficult to know what the fate of HF 2580 will be in the coming weeks. Although it met the policy bill deadline and is now sitting in the Education Finance Committee, there is no Senate companion to HF 2580, meaning that this proposal would have to be part of an omnibus funding bill if it were to hit the Governor's desk. The other option would be for the bill to get a quick introduction in the Senate and be heard by Friday, March 23. When a bill is "moving" in one body (meaning it has passed its policy committee deadline), the deadline for hearing that bill in the other body is extended by one week. We'll know more on Friday.

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