Parents Union calls for allowing students to select which school they attend, no matter what district

A coalition of parents wants to eliminate the school district borders and eliminate penalties for parents who send their child to whatever school they chose.

“I am an everyday parent, and I just want my children to have access to a great education,” said Gwen Samuel, the leader of the state’s Parents’ Union and a parent of two children attending Meriden public schools.

This recommendation follows the high-profile case of mother Tonya McDowell being prosecuted for sending her child to a district where she did not live.

“She heard the school is great and she put her son in that school. What did we do? We threatened her with 20 years” in jail, said Samuel at a news conference at the Legislative Office Building Wednesday. “It’s unethical. It’s immoral.”

But the recommendation is likely to receive significant pushback from high-achieving districts where students would likely flock. The concern is that these students’ parents would not be paying the taxes in that school district but would be adding significant costs by enrolling their child.

Samuel’s group, a coalition of thousands of parents mostly from urban areas, also is calling on the state to require every school to create parent panels armed with the authority to make decisions or vote to turn over management.

“Why are some schools exempt?” Samuel asked. Two years ago as the state’s Race to the Top initiative, Connecticut passed a law requiring schools to create School Governance Councils to be made up a majority of parents. However, Samuel said several low-performing schools are exempt from creating such councils.

The other recommendations the union is pushing for include stopping the use of seclusion room for children that are disruptive. The group also wants teacher tenure to be tied to student academic outcomes and wants a teacher’s tenure to be re-evaluated every five years.