Ready, Aim, Fire: California’s Parent Trigger



By 12/15/2010

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This may or may not be the answer to eternally bad schools, but a little parent revolution surely can’t be any worse than any of the other attempts at getting poor kids a good education.

Dubbed the “parent trigger,” California’s new law (passed in January) lets parents in failing public schools vote – 51 percent of them can trigger action – to turn their school over to a charter school operator.  The fact that California’s teacher unions, according to a New York Times story last week, calls the law the “lynch mob provision” must mean the bill’s backers are on the right track.

In fact, Ben Austin, a former aide to Bill Clinton and one-time associate at Green Dot charter schools, who started Parent Revolution, loves the idea of beating the unions at their own game.

As Parent Revolution  reported on its website,

[O]n December 7th, 2010, the parents of McKinley Elementary School in Compton [California] became the first parents in history to transform their school through the Parent Trigger, submitting signatures from over 61% of the school demanding change.

(The New Yorker profile on Steve Barr, in May of 2009, is great background on this movement.)

According to Krissy Clark, on NPR’s Weekend Edition last Saturday morning, Connecticut is the only other state to have a parent trigger law, but six other states are now considering it.

Clark may be right that the question is “not whether to pull the trigger but figuring out where to aim,” but congratulations to Austin not just for encouraging parents to speak up, but for figuring out how to equip them with the hope that they can actually improve things.

–Peter Meyer




Comment on this article
  • Thomas Gales says:

    This is a step in the right direction, but the parents are still avoiding their responsibility by shifting education of their children from a failing school to a school primarily interested in making a profit from their children’s education. The shift should be from a school district board to a community school with only parents of children in the school serving on the board. If a school is failing to achieve to parental standards, they should be able to petition to withdraw from the district, but still recieve the same amount of money per student. Hold their only election for board members and hire their own principal and teachers. They must also be able to decide the school curriculum.

  • Thomas Gales says:

    This is a step in the right direction, but the parents are still avoiding their responsibility by shifting education of their children from a failing school to a school primarily interested in making a profit from their children’s education. The shift should be from a school district board to a community school with only parents of children in the school serving on the board. If a school is failing to achieve to parental standards, they should be able to petition to withdraw from the district, but still recieve the same amount of money per student. Hold their own election for board members and hire their own principal and teachers. They must also be able to decide the school curriculum.

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