A so-called parent trigger law is the rare education reform policy that didn’t make it in Florida. It’s still on the books in California, though, and in the years since it was twice defeated here, it’s had more time to mature.
So how’s it working?
The Hechinger Report looks at some of the most recent applications of California’s 2010 Parent Empowerment Act:
In Los Angeles, the parent-trigger law, once considered the fast track to turning struggling California schools over to independently operated charters, has instead become a bargaining chip in brokering deals with the district. The alliance between 20th Street Elementary parents and Los Angeles Unified is the latest case in which the district has skirted the loss of a public school to a charter operator. In May of last year, parents from West Athens Elementary in South Los Angeles invoked the parent-trigger law to get more teacher training, computers, a fresh coat of paint, and a $300,000 investment in new staff.
“The vast majority of times parents are using their power to make changes within the district rather than turning to a charter,” says Gabe Rose, chief strategy officer for Parent Revolution, a local nonprofit that trains and finances parents who want to use the law. “People throw around random theories that this is about creating more charter schools or making Bill Gates more money. The reality is that parents are using the law to create a new sense of urgency, to flip the script and create a new catalyst for district bureaucracies that have been inattentive to the lowest-performing schools for many years.”
It seems the threat of a vote to transform or take over a low-performing school has proven more potent than the takeovers themselves, giving parents at those schools leverage they wouldn’t otherwise have over school officials, and an organizing tool to boot.
The pervasive charter school conversions and assorted horrors imagined by parent trigger’s critics in Florida and elsewhere don’t seem to have come to pass.
The track record in California wasn’t as well-established when the debate last raged here in 2013. Knowing what we know now, perhaps it’s worth reviving a question that could shed light the politics of school choice.
Florida gets high marks for policies promoting digital learning and charter schools, and is home to the largest private school choice program in the nation, and was the second state in the country to create education savings accounts that are now proliferating.
None of those policies passed without a fight. Why is this the one that didn’t get through?