Rep. Ed Lindsey
Rep. Ed Lindsey

State Rep. Edward Lindsey, a Buckhead Republican, says his proposal making it easier to convert an existing school into a charter school is about getting parents involved in education.

Lindsey’s “parent trigger bill” would allow a majority of parents or teachers at a school to petition to have their school become a charter school. Charter schools usually have more independence from a local school system, but the freedom comes with heightened expectations for students.

“I find it interesting that some people are concerned that parents may actually spend more time talking to their school board about the quality of their children’s education. That’s inherently a good thing,” Lindsey said during a Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education symposium on Jan. 11.

Not everyone is convinced Lindsey is on the right track. Rep. Stacey Abrams, an Atlanta Democrat, said at the same symposium that Lindsey’s bill sounds like a good idea at first, but “the devil is in the details.”

“You don’t want it to become a tool that is used to bludgeon schools into behavior that perhaps may not represent the full sense of what’s best for those kids,” Abrams said. “There have been states where it’s been used fairly improperly.”

So parents could have a clearer idea of what Lindsey is proposing, Reporter Newspapers asked him a few questions about the proposal. Here are his answers.

Q. What is a ‘parent trigger’ law?

A. You have a traditional public school. The parents believe that converting it to a charter school would improve education in their school. They would get a petition together and would have to get a majority of student households. (My wife and I constitute one student household. My neighbor down the street, who’s a single mom, she’s a student household.) If you get a majority of the student households to request the charter, it then goes to the school board for their consideration.

There’ll be certain factors for the school board to consider, or reject, the petition. It has to be rejected by two-thirds of the school board. The whole idea is to keep it local.

My friends who opposed the state charter amendment last year made a big deal about “we believe in charter — it just needs to stay at the local level.” Let’s see if they can prove that. Right now, it’s a lot more of a convoluted process to go to a charter school, a lot more hoops they have to go through.

Q. How do you think a parent trigger law could improve schools?

A. I’ve sat on the House Education Committee for eight years, and one thing I’ve learned over the years is any kind of education reform must touch on one of the following three aspects of education: an engaged student, an inspiring teacher or an involved parent. This bill brings parents into greater involvement in their children’s education.

Q. Why do you want to introduce this legislation?

A. You know, we need to be working on a whole series of education reforms in this state. The fact of the matter is, the state of public education in Georgia today is not where it should be. When you’ve got a graduation rate of 67 percent and if you drill it down to low income households, it’s in the low 50s. That’s morally and economically unacceptable.

Q. Are there similar laws in other states?

A. There are seven other states that have similar laws.

Q. Do you think recent events with the Atlanta and DeKalb County public schools may create more interest in this bill?

North Atlanta High School and DeKalb County provide excellent examples for why this is necessary. But the need is statewide. The need isn’t confined to our local area.

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.