Is There a Need for Parent Trigger Laws?
Seven U.S. states have passed "parent trigger" laws, which give parents the ability to petition for changes at their children's low-performing public schools. If more than half of the parents at a school sign the petition, the school district must comply with the changes. These can include hiring a new staff, hiring a public charter school operator to take over reforms, or closing the school altogether and sending students to better performing neighboring schools.
Proponents of the laws say it gives parents real power to make a change in schools that are chronically failing when the administration has been unable to improve student performance. They say that parents at these schools, often in poor and minority neighborhoods, should be able to take steps in closing the achievement gap to which their children fall victim. It allows parents, they argue, to take a dominant role in their children's educations and actively advocate for better schools.
Opponents of the parent trigger laws say merely signing a petition isn't the appropriate way for parents to institute reforms. Allowing parents to instigate such disruptive changes denies teachers and parents the ability to work together to improve the school community, often relinquishing control of the process to a third-party charter company. Those against the laws maintain that there is no proof that they work, and though well-intentioned, the trigger system gives parents the false perception that they don't have to play any other active role in improving their child's education.