California passed legislation in January of last year that empowers parents to actively engage in their school at a level formerly reserved for a school board. Called the ‘parent trigger’ law, parents dissatisfied with persistently failing schools can ‘pull the trigger’ with a majority consensus of parents in that school. At such time, parents have the ability to fire the principal, fire 50% of the teachers, or convert the school to a charter school.
Though school districts are already empowered by the NCLB to shutter any failing schools, this legislation would empower parents with authority to act if their school board does not. Parents in California are pulling the trigger while other states such as New Jersey, West Virginia, Michigan, Georgia and Maine are considering passing their own ‘parent trigger’ laws, as noted in a recent Education Week article and this article which also indicates that parent empowerment legislation is pending in Indiana, Ohio and Illinois.
Parents in Buffalo, New York are advocating for ‘parent trigger’ laws because they “want a seat at the table”. But Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, fears that this legislation will be abused by those whose “sole mission is to open a charter school”. What’s the problem? When over 50% of parents at a school are dissatisfied, it is GOOD they can takes steps to force change. The law is designed to serve parents, not charter school operators. And conversion to a charter school is only one option, not the only solution. The above article wisely points out that charters cannot be the sole option afforded to parents. Charters can, however, be offered as one of numerous options that could serve parents to educate their children.
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