Sat, July 20

Editorial: Giving parents anarchy authority is not solution to education woes

Giving parents more control over the operation of public schools is one of those concepts that sounds good until it’s put into practice.

The Arizona Senate this week voted to give parents broad-based powers over low-rated schools. It includes forcing the elected school board to shut down such schools, convert it to a charter school or replace the principal.

Fortunately, the measure touted by Anthem Sen. Lori Klein still must pass House muster and we can hold out hope those representatives will give more careful thought to this measure.

We can agree that schools receiving a “D” or “F” on the state’s evaluation system need a close look. It’s also agreed that anything and everything possible should be done to help such schools improve.

But it’s also important to note that the very people who come up with these different measuring sticks on how well schools are performing are not in agreement on their validity. Further, if there was any effective way at all of determining just how good a school is, then why do we see complete revamping of the standards tests every few years?

Also, how do you effectively compare schools in affluent areas that can afford to provide the very latest educational tools and pay top dollar to teachers with schools that struggle each month just to pay the utility bill? It’s also fair to ask if these measuring sticks fairly take into account schools with high percentages of students for whom English is a second language. Does is take cultural diversity into account?

As for giving parents such broad-based powers to force the closing of a school or to fire its principal, there is a real danger that a vocal minority of parents could wield power that is not really representative of public sentiment.

Yes, it’s important for parents to voice strongly held opinions about what should be done to improve their local schools, but it should remain the job of the elected school board to make those decisions. And, if these same parents have such a firm belief in their convictions, they should run for a seat on their local school board.

Giving non-elected folks the power to force those duly elected to public office to make such drastic decisions is akin to anarchy.