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Obama Education Secretary Endorses Parent Trigger — Sort Of

Alexander Russo | May 1, 2013

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Duncan and Jobs (via Nick Kislinger)

At an education conference in Burlingame earlier today, Obama education secretary Arne Duncan gave a muddled semi-endorsement of the controversial parent trigger law in California.

Specifically, Duncan described the trigger as “an important tool” for parent involvement — but not the only or even the most important one.

Duncan’s answer — which closely resembles the answer Eric Garcetti has given on the same issue — will likely disappoint trigger proponents and opponents alike.

The issue came up when Ben Austin, head of Parent Revolution, rose at the end of a long interview to ask the Secretary his position on the trigger.

Three years ago, Duncan gave a vague statement of support when the first parent trigger petition was taking place — and has remained mum on the topic since then.  So has his boss.

Claiming a lack of familiarity with the California law — and reminding listeners that the Florida version of the law failed to win legislative approval earlier this week, Duncan agreed that the trigger was one of several parent leadership strategies that could be used to help improve low-performing schools.

There are lots of things parents can do, said Duncan, and “parent triggers are a piece of that.”

“That was a non-endorsement, endorsement,” tweeted T. Patrick Yocum, about Duncan’s response.

Apparently unsatisfied with his response, interviewer Laurene Powell Jobs asked the Secretary what other kinds of things might have the same impact as the trigger.

Other parent leadership strategies, according to Duncan, include pressing administrators to make schools more available after school hours and turning off the TV at home during homework time.

Duncan’s second answer wasn’t much better than his first, according to some observers.

“Laurene Powell jobs pushes on parent trigger question but not too much clarity from Duncan,” noted Huffington Post education reporter Joy Resmovits, via Twitter. Her description of Duncan’s answer:  “Vague, vague, vague.”

Parent Revolution’s Austin stood at the microphone during Duncan’s initial response and second answer, looking somewhat disappointed as he returned to his chair.

While opposed by many teachers, unions, and progressives because it can lead to teachers being fired and a school being converted into a non-union charter, the trigger is supported by some reform-minded Democratic lawmakers, including LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Congressman George Miller, head of the House education committee in Washington.


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