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Parent Trigger Policies Gain Momentum

February 22, 2013 posted by Halli Bayer

Parent Trigger optionsLast week was a big week for the parent empowerment education policy known as "parent trigger."

The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, the second-largest school district in the nation, unanimously approved a petition from parents of students attending the 24th Street Elementary School requesting the ability to turn around their school. The school will undergo the "restart" model, which will convert the persistently failing traditional public school to a public charter school.

This vote was a huge victory not only for the parents of 24th Street Elementary but for parent trigger advocates nationwide, who watched the two previous parent trigger petitions in California meet resistance at every step. Now that these parents have had their petition approved, it is critical that they choose a charter operator that will provide their students with an excellent education. This can be determined, in part, by a charter operator's track record of success with similar student populations.

This week at a panel hosted by the University of Southern California Unruh Institute of Politics, Ben Austin of Parent Revolution said that parent trigger represents a paradigm shift that is playing out in California. Parent trigger, said Austin, creates "a transfer of power from the legislators who are upholding the status quo to the parents, whose chief concern is the children." StudentsFirst CEO Michelle Rhee, who was also on the panel, agreed with Austin's assessment, while currently advocating for parent trigger laws across the country.

Of the 17 states in which StudentsFirst is active, eight are currently considering parent trigger legislation: Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, and Tennessee.

Strong bills are currently being considered in Georgia, Missouri, Indiana, and Tennessee. These bills allow for parent trigger when a majority of parents whose kids attend a low-performing school sign the turnaround petition; they also require that districts provide parents with multiple school turnaround options from which to choose, and also that they implement the turnaround plan ultimately chosen by those parents. Georgia, Missouri, and Indiana are also considering requiring that any charter school operator selected in the restart option have a proven history of success.

In Ohio, Governor Kasich has proposed expanding the parent trigger pilot program in Columbus to the entire state, and talks are beginning to unfold about parent trigger legislation in Nevada.

As more states consider parent trigger, it is important to focus on the quality of the laws being proposed. A good parent trigger law allows a majority of parents to petition, gives parents multiple turnaround options to choose from, enforces school district implementation, and requires proven success from the charter operator when parents select the restart model. These key policy pieces will help ensure that parent trigger truly empowers parents with quality options for the future of their children's school.

To learn more about parent trigger, see the StudentsFirst Policy Publication, "Empowering Parents with Choice: The Parent Trigger", visit the StudentsFirst State Policy Report Card or view the Parent Trigger section of the ActionCenter Policy Carousel.

Topics: Parent Empowerment