There's a new movie about education that indulges our fantasies on how to fix our ailing schools. It's called "Won't Back Down" and it's about two teacher/parents who campaign to turn their failing public school into a charter school.
It's based on a "true story" or more accurately a real law. The Parent Empowerment in Education Act (SB1718) or Parent Trigger Law. According to the Florida Education Association this law was framed as allowing parents at a public school to vote to “turn around” their school by employing several options, including charter conversion.
It has passed in a few states most notably California. Two communities there, the cities of Compton and San Bernadino have tried to invoke it to turn around their poor performing schools without success. Efforts have led to confusion and court fights.
In Georgia two parent trigger laws are under review. One allows for parents to petition to intervene in under achieving schools. The other allows parents to petition for charter schools in their district.
The charter school element of "Won't Back Down" may be of interest to Georgia moviegoers. But the simplified film treatment doesn't touch reality.
Charter schools as we know are a hot button topic here. In November, Georgians will decide whether to give the state power to approve charter school creation, overriding local school board authority.
The issue is splitting potential voters and politicians. A Georgia Charter Association poll conducted in the summer found that likely voters supported the amendment.
Superintendent John Barge has come out vocally against it, supposedly going back on a campaign promise. Meanwhile Governor Nathan Deal and many lawmakers are for it.
One of the issues of contention is the funding formula. Through the new law, more money is allocated per student in charter schools than regular public schools.
If this were a Hollywood film, a fiesty parent/teacher team would surface with a solution to save the day. You can see that play out in the movie "Won't Back Down."If you do, feel free to leave a comment with your armchair review. How does fantasy compare to reality? What would you do in the movie characters' situation?
As for those of us in the real world, the debate on how to best save our schools continues. And we will learn the fate of one of the proposed answers - the charter referendum - in November.