Parent Trigger Laws Don't Give Parents a Voice
Parent trigger laws promote privatization, not parent empowerment
October 26, 2012
This fall, the movie Won't Back Down, about a fictional mother who uses the "parent trigger" to turn around her child's failing school, was released to theaters across America. Despite aggressive promotion by the film's right-wing producer and distributor, Philip Anschutz and Rupert Murdoch, as well as CBS, NBC and other media outlets, the film has been a critical and financial flop. One day, the parent trigger law, which inspired the film, will be seen in a similar light.
The law was first conceived of by a California organization called the Parent Revolution, which in turn was founded by a charter school operator. Its purpose is not parent empowerment, but privatization. Most charters schools offer parents even less input into school policies than traditional public schools, they do not get better academic results, and they often feature overly harsh disciplinary practices, high rates of student and teacher attrition, and questionable financial practices.
The example of Adelanto in California, the only district in the country in which the parent trigger has been enacted, is instructive. Organizers paid by the Parent Revolution asked parents to sign two petitions, one calling for smaller classes and more parent input; the other for conversion to a charter school. Yet only the second petition was formally submitted.
In a school with over 600 students, only 286 parents voted for the charter; of those, more than 100 tried to rescind their vote, but were blocked from doing so by the courts. Parent Revolution then decided that only those parents who supported the charter could vote for which charter operator would run the school. In the end, only 53 parents voted. This isn't parent empowerment; it's parent trickery, disguised to enable the imposition of an agenda that puts public funds in private hands with less oversight, and leaves parents with even less voice than before.
Only a little more than a year ago, another charter school in the Adelanto was forced to close, because the operators were involved in fiscal mismanagement and questionable self-dealing that hurt the children they were supposed to serve.
Instead of handing off their public school to private corporation to run, most parents want their neighborhood schools to be improved through smaller classes, less testing, and a well-rounded education. Parents also deserve a real voice in the day-to-day decision-making at the school level. Unfortunately, the parent trigger provides none of the above.