Giving parents power to close D schools

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PHOENIX -- It's never easy to see your child get a bad grade, but what happens when your child's school earns a D? One group is proposing an idea that could put more power in parents' hands.

The Department of Education recently released its letter grades for every school in Arizona. Unfortunately, dozens of schools got Ds.

"We could fill the University of Phoenix Stadium and the Jobing.com Arena with all the kids that attend D schools, so that's significant," said Jonathan Butcher, education director at the Goldwater Institute.

"Why should we allow schools to fail children, sometimes for generations, and remain open and pretend to be teaching children when really they're not?" Sen. Rick Murphy asked.

So the Goldwater Institute is researching what's known as a parent trigger law. It would give Arizona parents the power to actually shut down underperforming schools.

"These parent empowerment laws allow parents to step in, take owernship of the school and take what is a drastic measure to improve their child's situation immediately without having to wait multiple years for things to change," Butcher said.

Murphy believes "sometimes drastic measures are called for and a drastic improvement is necessary."

"The time for parents to get involved is before the school gets to that point," said Tracey Benson with the School Board Association.

Benson points out parents can remove their child from a D school under the No Child Left Behind Act.

"The federal and state education systems know that there are schools out there that need improvement and obviously are looking out for the best interests of students to make sure that they do have options and that they don't need to continue to attend a school that's not meeting their needs," Benson said.

Under the current system, if a school fails two years in a row, parents can enroll their child in another school within the district and the transportation costs are covered.

The Goldwater Institute believes waiting years for change is too long.

"A parent wants to be able to make a decision and decide what's best for their child right away, make an immediate change and not have to wait three years for a school to work on a turnaround plan and improve," Butcher said.

To address schools that need improvement, the Department of Education is holding town hall meetings this week and next.

Below is a list of meeting times and locations.


Holbrook: Nov. 10, 8:30 a.m.-11 a.m.

Phoenix Metro: ADE MEGA Conference - Nov. 17, 2 p.m.-5 p.m.
The Wigwam Resort - Conference Center, Sachem West, 300 Wigwam Blvd.