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Parent Trigger Laws: Power to the Parents

Enacted in the State of California in January 2010, the “Parent Trigger” law gave parents of low-performing schools the power to change the landscape of their children’s education. Fast forward 1 ½ years, and similar legislation is appearing across the United States.

What is this law?

Provided that a California school 1) fails to meet federal academic benchmarks for more than three consecutive years, 2) has an Academic Performance Index (the state's benchmark test) of less than 800, and 3) is among the lowest 5 percent of schools in California; a vote by 51% or more of the school’s parents can enact change. These changes include: closing a school, firing all staff and re-hiring new teachers and administrators, or turning the school over to an education management firm or a charter operator.

In the other 49 states, this same action can be taken by a district school board under the No Child Left Behind law, also known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. But in California, this power has been passed to the school’s parents. And similar versions of California’s law have now been introduced into the legislations of 14 other states.

Can they handle the truth?

Not so surprisingly, administrators and unions alike are very concerned. Such as: are parents familiar enough with the dynamics of a school system, and could less desperate measures have a better effect? There are also concerns about the ulterior motives of organizations that back the parent trigger laws, in particular, Parent Revolution. Namely, is this nothing more than a plan by charter schools to take over education?

With both sides claiming to have only the children’s best interests in mind, guilt and innocence can sometimes be foggy. One thing is for sure: Parental power in education is on the rise nationally.

Do you think parents can/should take this on?

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