Parent Trigger Laws as a Vehicle of Transformation

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Parent Trigger Laws as a Vehicle of Transformation

Parents at school; with a parent trigger law on the table, parents have a real say in how the local school is run. With a parent trigger law on the table, parents have a real say in how the local school is run. Plenty of parents wish that they could push restart on the local public school, and this type of law allows them to do just that. Parents generally don’t have power over which faculty is hired or fired or who is running the local school. Parent trigger laws make it possible to implement real change in failing schools, through the action of parents.

A parent trigger law empowers parents to petition the local school board if a school is consistently demonstrating poor performance. Not every school qualifies for this option, these laws generally apply only to schools scoring below a certain number on state achievement tests, or other similar tools which are used to fairly measure performance. The formal petition must be signed by at least 50% of the parent body in the failing school. If the petition is approved, the school can be closed, turned into a charter school or restructured.

Where do parent trigger laws apply?

Parent trigger laws are generally passed on the state level, but not all states have one on the books, and not all districts are included in the states that do. For example, Ohio’s law applies to 20 Columbus City Schools with very low performance . In California, the Parent Empowerment Act was passed in 2010, which allowed parents to petition to close failing schools. Two schools in the LA Unified School District have used this law, and a third school petitioned in 2015, but was rejected.

Why don’t more failing schools take advantage of parent trigger laws?

Although it might seem like a great idea to restructure all failing schools, parent trigger laws generally come with strict numeric guidelines for the exact scores required to petition. Many states have suspended state testing for various periods of time, which can make it impossible to prove that a school meets the criteria. Additionally, getting 50% of the parent body to sign a petition is no easy feat in a school with hundreds of students. A few dedicated and well-informed parents have to take it upon themselves to follow-through with the petition and make sure it is filed correctly, if they even want a chance to be taken seriously by the state and the school board.

If a petition is approved, can the school really be changed?

While parents might have the right motivation, they don’t necessarily know how to run a school. In most cases where a parent petition has been accepted, the school became a charter school. This is a good option because there are many experienced organizations that know how to run successful charter schools. Once the school is under the administration of a charter organization, real informed decisions can be made to drastically improve the educational outcomes for students. It is also possible for some staff to be replaced without changing the entire administration of the school. Another possibility is for the school to be closed completely, but this can cause challenges because all of the students will need to find new schools, which might be far from where the students live, and require a lengthy commute. A parent trigger law is essentially a tool which gives parents a say in where their children learn. No child should be forced to remain in a failing school. By allowing parents to transform their local schools, these laws encourage parental responsibility and involvement in education, which is something teachers and principals should admire and respect.
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