Jeff Meadors: Trigger legislation could put power in the hands of teachers, parents

Jeff Meadors

Jeff Meadors

On Tuesday, Feb. 12, the House Education Committee approved parent triggers by a vote of 15-3.

House Bill 123, the Parent Trigger Bill, moves to Rules.

The trigger would allow a majority of a public school households or teachers and instructional staff at a given school to demand consideration of their petition to convert a failing school to charter status.

Led by Georgia House Majority Whip Ed Lindsey with impetus from Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, the original version gave teachers the right to use a secret ballot to beg for turnaround that would fire administrators. Half the teachers and instructional staff would vote at a special meeting, and a majority vote could produce a recommendation their school board must consider.

There aren't many teeth in the trigger from that point forward, at least for now. The school board must consider, not agree, but the public relations debacle ensuing from the fervor would trigger more calls to action, possibly more legislation, as Georgia taxpayers weary from decades of achievement purgatory continue to demand control of their dollars.

Corpulent salaries, seedy indictments, corruption, nepotism, mismanagement of dollars and cheating scandals drape like purple haze over what may become the second consecutive year in the history of Georgia where significant charter schools legislation is passed.

We will never uniformly improve student achievement on a large scale in Georgia until we first improve the profession of the classroom teacher and improve the quality of life for teachers, hence students, inside Georgia's classrooms.

Classroom teachers remain low on the certified pay scale as states dangle financial incentives over anyone seeking an exit from the classroom for leadership and central office jobs. Everyone and anyone is lapping up doctorates of education online and in line, escaping the classroom at near fever-pitch. Yet, for all the six-figure doctors of education running around schools, today few students seem to be getting well: nearly 59 percent of Georgia test-takers failed to meet the standard on the first student performance measure since the state moved to common-core curriculum.

Pro-trigger legislators, keenly aware of the demoralization of classroom teachers in Georgia, would give power to teachers and parents and pink slips to school leaders in targeted schools, as one of the most inflammatory debates abetting school choice, integrated math, hammers out failed progeny.

I sat down last week with counselors in DeKalb County to talk math.

"We told the state not to do this," remarked one high school counselor, echoing what I've heard in Newton, Rockdale and Walton, and from angry parents out of Henry County, "Colleges don't understand this math," she continued.

SAT math scores sink as naive students face math for which they have no trigonometric foundation. Integrated math has robbed math skills from a cohort of graduates at a time when educrats hang on every STEM they hear.

STEM is important, but you can't paste the acronym on pathways built on bad math and chopped logic, and school leaders can't continue to make these types of decisions expecting public trust in return.

Move it to Rules.

Jeff Meadors is the District 1 representative on the Newton County Board of Education. Readers may email him at pjeffreymeadors@gmail.com.