The push for the "parent trigger" option for turning around struggling schools
continues, with new laws under consideration in about a dozen states'
legislative sessions, even as such laws already on the books remain unused in
all but one of the seven states that have them.
Many education advocates opposed to what they view as efforts to privatize and corporatize public schools are watching with trepidation as lawmakers in Florida, Oklahoma, and elsewhere review parent-trigger bills. Opponents argue that the mechanism ultimately hurts schools and ruptures communities.
In some cases, however, detractors have succeeded in stopping parent-trigger bills dead in their tracks. A measure that had appeared headed for approval in the Georgia state legislature faltered late last week when GOP lawmakers raised concerns that it could pit teachers--who would be able to petition a school board for a takeover by a charter operator or initiate another turnaround intervention--against their own principals. The legislation had the backing of top state lawmakers, but was opposed by a variety of public education groups, including the state teachers' union.
Meanwhile, at least three other states--California, Indiana, and Texas--were also considering revisions to their existing parent-trigger laws.
Those in favor of the laws reject the critics' assertions but also caution supporters not to expect a flood of trigger petitions in the near future.
Many parents may have to get used to the idea that, through laws that let them initiate a charter school conversion or other turnaround process, they can exercise as much power as middle- and upper-middle-class parents typically do, said Ben Austin, the executive director of Parent Revolution. The Los Angeles-based group was instrumental in successful parent-trigger petition drives in California.
"At the end of the day, this is going to be up to local community groups and local parents to determine how the law is implemented in individual states," said Mr. Austin, who noted that by the start of the 2013-14 school year, California schools could be undergoing changes of various kinds because of the parent trigger.
(Parent Revolution receives funding from the Walton Family Foundation, which also helps support Education Week's coverage of parent empowerment.)
Bills on the Move
Parent-trigger laws allow a majority of parents to officially request an overhaul at their school, which often leads to conversions to charters, although not always.
California was the first state to pass a parent-trigger law; roughly 20 states have at least considered enacting one, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
But outside of California, no school has been the subject of a parent-trigger petition. (In California, a bill is under consideration to expand the number of schools eligible for the parent trigger.)
The parent-trigger bill in Oklahoma, as of late last week , had advanced the furthest, having passed the Oklahoma Senate. Florida lawmakers are considering versions of the bill in both the House and the Senate. (A Colorado parent-trigger bill was defeated this year, as was the Georgia legislation.)
Trigger laws now on the books in various states generally ensure that the
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