Should parents have the power to pull the trigger on schools?

Since January 2010, California parents have (theoretically) had the legal right to force a school to close down, convert to a charter, or change its administration . . . if more than half of the parents whose kids attend this school sign a petition.

This so-called “trigger” law has generated a lot of controversy, a lot of opposition, and so far not a whole lot of change.

Last Friday the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed recounting the most recent trigger battle, in Adelanto, California. The author, David Feith, accuses  teachers’ unions of employing “dirty tricks” to fight trigger petitions. (To his credit, he includes the union response, so you can read that as well.)

A parent-trigger press conference at Adelanto, Calif.'s Desert Trails Elementary, Jan. 12.

I have no inside information about this controversy or the merits of either side. But I’m intrigued by the trigger mechanism and its potential for empowering parents.

We’re likely to hear a lot more about this issue in the coming months. As  the New York Times reports:

In a rare mix of hot policy debate and old-fashioned screen drama, 20th Century Fox is preparing a September release for “Won’t Back Down.” The film heads smack into the controversies around so-called parent trigger laws that in California and a handful of other states allow parents to dump bad teachers and overrule administrators in bottom-ranked schools.


Viola Davis, an Oscar nominee as best actress for “The Help,” plays a teacher who risks career and friendships to join the revolt. Maggie Gyllenhaal is the single mother who sells cars, tends bar and rouses parents to take charge of their grade school.

For more about the movie, and the controversy, check out:


What do you think?

One comment

  1. Goet

    Mary, two points:

    I see how this could be useful and also abusive. I don’t know of any practical examples and have experienced nothing of the sort in my teaching career. As a parent, I’d like to think I have some freedom in where and how my child is educated.
    As a teacher, I fear the misunderstandings that can result in an entire school being shut down over a principal that maybe doesn’t have the social skills to win over parents.

    Second point: ever since the changeover in website format, education articles are deeply buried and spread out and it is just so hard to find my favorite items up for discussion, namely ed. articles. Is there a way to get Dnews IT people to add another tab somewhere that links education articles? I know I have seriously reduced the hits on this website due to the lack of a education grouping.

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