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Op-Ed: The Need for Parent Trigger: 6 Years of Failing Schools is Unacceptable

La Prensa/San Antonio
April 21, 2013

By Ramiro Mojarro

Many of us parents who have had children graduate from a Texas public school, have sons and daughters attending public schools in San Antonio, or simply care about the quality of the education Texas children are receiving in the public school system of the Lone Star state have heard for many years the problems that afflict this very large educational system.

We have heard of increase in failing schools for the last twenty years, of schools constant inability to prepare sufficient number of graduates for the world of work in Texas or for the opportunity to attend a university in Texas or out of Texas.

As Latino parents we have been informed of how much Hispanic student enrollment has increased so that today Hispanic students comprise 2.4 million out of a total of 4.9 million students in Texas public schools. During that period in time Hispanic students were below the SAT college readiness benchmark for reading and math. In addition, only 72% of Hispanic students met the minimum Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT), and only 70% of Hispanic students were estimated to graduate from high school on time.

These are some of the key indicators that reflect the serious structural challenges facing Hispanic students as they prepare for work or college in Texas. The problems of underachieving and being vocational and college ready remain a very disturbing problem for not only Hispanic students and their families, but also for the State of Texas. This is a very major reason for the constant poverty that is we see throughout south Texas and beyond in the state.

During these years we have also met many qualified and well intentioned teachers who have expressed concern, interest, and commitment to helping Latino and non-Latino children get a good education. It has been clear to many of us that the schools that our children have attended and attend today have been poorly funded and deserve a greater commitment from the State of Texas.

As parents we have had and continue to see that it is almost impossible to change the direction of a school that has been low performing. In fact, current law allows a majority of parents with children in chronically failing schools to petition the state to take action only after a minimum of 6 years has been reached. Prior to that the options are very limited and it is quite possible that some children in Texas public schools can in fact attend failing schools for their entire K-12 years.

We cannot accept this status quo any longer. We cannot allow our children to attend a habitually low performing school for 6 years. This standard is completely unacceptable and we must stand up and express that this must change. We parents must get more involved in being part of the solution and we must have the means and responsibility for helping make a difference in the education of our children. As Latinos we have the most to lose and gain if we can turn around this terrible situation facing our children and their futures. The State of Texas has a great deal gain as well in reforming the public education system.

In the elections held in November 2012 we have heard a great deal of how Latinos now have political power. We have elected more Latinos to Congress and to state legislatures throughout the U.S. However, the political power that has been increasing has not been able to make changes to the education system in Texas that are very much needed. While there are no magic acts to make things better overnight, there is parent trigger that gives parents the responsibility to help our children attending low performing schools.

Parent trigger allows parents at the very worst schools to organize and demand that the district improve the school or even convert it to a charter serving all the children after 2 consecutive years of low-performance.  It allows parents to organize and say, “fix this school or someone else will”. It is fair and practical and gives our children a better opportunity for a better future.

We respect and appreciate the support all of the Latino Texas state legislators gave to parent trigger in 2011. We need them to now take the proper action of supporting HB 2976, parent trigger legislation by Representative Naomi Gonzalez. We have not heard of any alternatives to giving parents the right and responsibility to take action when schools are not providing what our children need and deserve. We expect our elected officials especially in San Antonio to support us and our hopes and desires for our children----support HB 2976.

Ramiro Mojarro, President, Clubs de Zacatecas de San Antonio; Nancy Craig, Local S.A. Elementary School PTA President; and Inga Cotton of contributed to this article.