Since last January, every parent in California of a child in a failing public school has had the legal right to petition and invoke one of four turnaround models. Yesterday, in a revolutionary move, parents at McKinley Elementary School, part of the Compton Unified School District, did just that, becoming the first in the nation to use the “parent trigger” to convert the failing school into a charter school.
The parent trigger enables parents to reform a failing public school in one of four ways: (1) They can convert the poor-performing public school into a charter; (2) they can opt for a district turnaround, replacing half the staff and bringing in new leadership; (3) they can invoke a transformation in which the district replaces the principal; or (4) they can increase their parental bargaining power to make school-wide changes. While all of the turnaround options are meaningful, parents in Compton have chosen the most innovative.Once parents have decided on one of the four options for reforming their children’s failing public school, they produce a petition to circulate. Once the petition has the signatures of parents representing 51 percent of the students at a school, the petition goes to the district, constituting an order to begin the turnaround. The Wall Street Journal reported on the move by Compton parents yesterday:
More than 60% of McKinley parents have signed the petition to free the school from the Compton Unified bureaucracy and install charter school operator Celerity Educational Group to run it instead. … None of this is going down well with the bureaucracy or the California Federation of Teachers, whose president has called parent trigger a “lynch mob provision.”
Parent trigger has support from Democrats including Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, former Washington, D.C., schools chief Michelle Rhee and even Rahm Emanuel now that he’s running for mayor of Chicago. Legislators in Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, West Virginia and Maryland tell us they will introduce versions of parent trigger in the coming months.
The New York Times picked up on the story, writing, “In essence, [the parent trigger] is a union for parents.”
The parent trigger is certainly a breath of fresh air for students in failing public schools in California. The parent trigger has the potential to be an extremely useful new tool for parents in the fight for quality educational options. But it should be the beginning of bold reform options nationwide that empower families with robust school choice options.
When the education unions are mad, you know you’re on the right track. And when parents are empowered, you can be assured you are. The parent trigger has accomplished both in California and will hopefully begin a wave of parent- and student-centered empowerment throughout the country.