More states considering ‘Parent Trigger’ laws

2 Feb

California has enacted a law called the “Parent Trigger.” Parent Revolution describes the Parent Trigger

What is the Parent Trigger?

The Parent Trigger is a historic new law that gives parents in California the right to force a transformation of their child’s current or future failing school. All parents need to do is organize – if 51% of them get together and sign an official Parent Trigger petition, they have the power to force their school district to transform the school.

What would the transformation look like?

President Obama has laid out several ways for a low-performing school to be transformed into a great one. The Parent Trigger empowers parents to choose any one of these four options. They are:

1) Charter conversion:

If there is a nearby charter school that is outperforming your child’s failing school, parents can bring in that charter school to transform the failing school. The school will then be run by that charter school, not the school district, but it will continue to serve all the same students that have always attended the school.

2) Turnaround:

If parents want huge changes but want to leave the school district in charge, this option may be for them. It forces the school district to hit the reset button by bringing in a new staff and giving the local school community more control over staffing and budget.

3) Transformation:

This is the least significant change. It force the school district to find a new principal, and make a few other small changes.

4) Closure:

This option would close the school altogether and send the students to other, higher-performing schools nearby.  Parent Revolution does NOT recommend this option to parents – we believe schools must be transformed, not closed.

5) Bargaining power:

If parents want smaller changes but the school district just won’t listen to them, they can organize, get to 51%, and use their signatures as bargaining power.

Parents get to pick which option they want for their children and their school. For a much more detailed overview of each one of these options, please click here.

How do I know if my school is eligible?

The Parent Trigger applies to every school in California that is on Program Improvement Year Three or above, has an API score of under 800, and is not classified as one of the lowest 5% of schools in the state .

Jennifer Medina is reports in the New York Times article, At California School. Parents Force Overhaul Medina has another excellent New York Times about how difficult it is to change the status quo in education, ‘Parent Trigger’ Law to Reform Schools Faces Challenges

Lee Cowan reported in the NBC News story, ‘Trigger law’ put to the test in Compton, Calif.

On its face, the idea sounds so simple: if a school is persistently failing, give parents the power to change it. But the reality of putting that notion into practice is proving challenging, at best.

In the last two years, California, Texas and Mississippi have passed so-called “parent trigger” laws. In each, the law stipulates that if at least 51 percent of the parents of children enrolled in a school sign a petition, they can trigger change. The laws vary in terms of the specifics, but in general, the new law allows parents at persistently failing schools to fire the teachers and principal, and in some cases, turn the school into a charter school instead. Twenty-two other states are considering giving parents the same kind of power.

But there is strong opposition to the laws from teachers’ unions. They argue parents don’t have the experience that career educators do to make big policy changes.

So far, the law has only been put to the test once, in Compton, Calif., and it has sparked a battle. Hundreds of parents signed a petition to turn McKinley Elementary into a charter school. Parents say they had good reasons. Less than half their kids were meeting state standards in math and reading.

As states try to find solutions for failing schools, “Parent Trigger” laws are increasingly seen as one solution to the problem.

Emily Richmond writes in The Atlantic article, Should Parents ‘Pull the Trigger’ on Failing Schools?

There’s a significant buzz out of Florida regarding proposed legislation that would enact a so-called “Parent Trigger:”  Dissatisfied families could vote to have a local public school undergo significant restructuring including being converted to a charter school or turned over to a private operator. 

Similar legislation has passed in California and Texas, not without controversy and ensuing conflict, and Indiana is also considering enacting a parent trigger.

Here’s part of the problem: There’s no clear picture of what happens once the trigger is pulled or much hard evidence that the students would ultimately benefit from the intervention. 

Florida is ranked third in the nation for its charter school laws, according to the latest report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Among the elements that earned the Sunshine State high marks is its lack of a cap on the number of charter schools permitted. Florida also allows state universities and community college boards to authorize specific types of charter schools, opening up additional avenues beyond the local school board.

Charter schools were always supposed to be the “Next Great Idea” in public education, allowing seeds of innovation to flourish without the perceived distractions attributed to collective bargaining agreements and district regulations. The idea was that with charter schools blazing the trail, public schools could follow. 

But when well-meaning parents and community groups launched some of these independently operated schools, what they quickly discovered is that the business of education is more difficult than they had ever envisioned. 

Into that wide breech stepped education management organizations, often promising the moon plus a rocketship to get there. The moon has yet to be delivered. Or even the rocketship, really. There are certainly examples of strong charter schools. But there are significant gains still to be made. (For more on how for-profit and nonprofit-managed charter schools are performing compared with traditional public schools, click here. Time Magazine, via the Hechinger Report, also has an excellent story on what happens when charters are forced to close .)

In California, actual attempts to pull the parent trigger appear mostly to have fired blanks. A Compton public school was the first to test the new law and survey parents about what they wanted to happen to a struggling campus. What resulted,  according to an editorial from the Los Angeles Times, was the “stuff of high educational drama — claims of intimidation from both sides, an intransigent school board that put parents through ridiculous hoops to verify their signatures and, eventually, legal defeat when the petition was found lacking on largely technical grounds.”

The editorial board at the Sun Sentinel  has significant reservations  about Florida’s proposed legislation, warning that “private education companies could chum the waters in beleaguered districts with political campaigns to tilt parents toward privatization.” The editorial also raises concerns that parents who are “often too busy even for PTA meetings would face a steep and brief learning curve in making such a game-changing call.

Educated Reporter logo

More on the Charter School Experiment: Skimming Students?
Should Teachers “Friend” Students?
When Digital Schools Don’t Add Up

Ramsey Cox reported in the Education Week article, Parent ‘Trigger’ Law Draws Attention, Controversy about the push back which is occurring because of the Compton parents use of the “Parent Trigger” law.

The Dec. 7 petition by a group of parents at McKinley Elementary School in Compton could add momentum to a push in other states for similar legislation, in the view of Robin Lake, the associate director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education, at the University of Washington, in Seattle.

California’s parent-trigger law, passed in January, allows 51 percent of parents at a school that has failed to meet “adequate yearly progress” requirements for three consecutive years to sign a petition that prompts one of four actions: converting to a charter school, replacing the principal and staff, changing the budget, or closing the school entirely.

Mississippi passed a similar law in July, and Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, and West Virginia also are considering parent-trigger laws.

Entrenched entities will always resist change. Whether the “Parent Trigger” laws are one solution remains to be seen.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©


2 Responses to “More states considering ‘Parent Trigger’ laws”


  1. National Education Policy Center researches the ‘parent trigger’ « drwilda - September 5, 2012

    […] to change the status quo in education, ‘Parent Trigger’ Law to Reform Schools Faces Challenges The National Education Policy Center has issued a policy brief about the “parent […]

  2. Parent Trigger: ‘Won’t Back Down’ « drwilda - September 24, 2012

    […] More states considering ‘Parent Trigger’ laws                  […]

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