Education Policy, and Parental Empowerment

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on December 9, 2010

If you want a job done right, you have to do it yourself; a lesson many parents are taking to heart in addressing the educational needs of their kids.

By Marlene Romero’s count, her son has had just one effective teacher in his five years at McKinley Elementary School here [in Compton, California]. Most of the time, she said, he has merely shuffled through classrooms, struggling in math without ever getting extra help.

So when an organizer came knocking at her door promising that if she signed a petition, her son’s school could radically improve, Ms. Romero immediately pledged her support.

Now, she is one of more than 250 parents in Compton who are using a new state law to force the failing school to be taken over by a charter school operator, the first such move in the country.

Voicing enormous frustration with the existing school, the parents handed over the petition on Tuesday to district officials. “We are completely fed up,” Ms. Romero said. “We’ve been told to wait every year and nothing changes.”

When Ms. Romero attended Compton schools in the 1990s, she said, nobody seemed to notice or care when she skipped school for days at a time. She dropped out at the age of 16. “I want my children to be able to have what I didn’t,” she said.

This isn’t the only case of a spontaneous uprising in favor of the creation of a charter school. Naturally, the teachers’ unions and school board hate the law allowing for charter operators to take control of failing schools. But just out of curiosity, why should the school boards and teachers’ unions be taken seriously anymore? They’ve had their chance to use virtually untrammeled power to bring about positive change in the field of educational policy. And they have failed completely.

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