Parent Trigger Laws: Is this the future?

Parent trigger laws are in the news again, thanks to a vote of approval from The U.S. Conference of Mayors held in Orlando, FL in June, 2012.

Although no locality has succeeded in passing such a law, some have tried, and this positive commitment from the nation’s mayors seems to weigh heavily toward it.

What are Parent Trigger Laws?

If a school is failing (and we assume this means test scores), this law would allow parents to take over the school and run it themselves or turn it over to private entities to run. Parents in two California cities, Compton and Adelanto, both low-income areas with real problems to face, have tried to implement this law. They had enough signatures to do it, too, but teacher’s unions have fought back and the whole process is stalled in court.

At first blush, at first glance, this whole movement may seem like a good thing. Maybe it is! For schools bombarded with budget cuts on the one hand and striking community problems on the other, it might be a good thing for parents to try to take on the problem.

On the other hand, I’ve seen firsthand the results of parent leadership in a nearby charter school. The school charter included a heavy amount of parent input. In reality, what happened was that few decisions could be made clearly and cleanly. Moreover, when there was a conflict between unfortunate student behavior and a teacher, the teacher always got the short end of the stick because the parents had the clout to weigh in and rescue the student.

Failing schools? Perhaps there are not as many as we think, although of course our hearts go out to those families in impoverished areas like Compton where it’s hard to know justwhat to do.

However, it’s sort of a mantra that our schools are failing and we need to call in the reinforcements (read the private sector, commercial entities) to save them. And of course, in many cases, this goes right to test scores, which I’ve long insisted are a dismal measurement of whether a school is good or not. Scamper back through my blogs this year to see why.

I imagine that these parent trigger laws won’t come into our schools without a fight, given teacher unions. I would hope that devoted parents in desperate areas would have enough of a voice to help their kids’ schools, but I would also bet that it would be an unusual group of parents that could really hold it together and create an educational institution better than the one that’s already failing in their neighborhood.


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