Ready, Aim, Fire: California’s Parent Trigger

This may or may not be the answer to eternally bad schools, but a little parent revolution surely can’t be any worse than any of the other attempts at getting poor kids a good education.

Dubbed the “parent trigger,” California’s new law (passed in January) lets parents in failing public schools vote – 51 percent of them can trigger action – to turn their school over to a charter school operator.  The fact that California’s teacher unions, according to a New York Times story last week, calls the law the “lynch mob provision” must mean the bill’s backers are on the right track.

In fact, Ben Austin, a former aide to Bill Clinton and one-time associate at Green Dot charter schools, who started Parent Revolution, loves the idea of beating the unions at their own game.

As Parent Revolution  reported on its website,

[O]n December 7th, 2010, the parents of McKinley Elementary School in Compton [California] became the first parents in history to transform their school through the Parent Trigger, submitting signatures from over 61% of the school demanding change.

(The New Yorker profile on Steve Barr, in May of 2009, is great background on this movement.)

According to Krissy Clark, on NPR’s Weekend Edition last Saturday morning, Connecticut is the only other state to have a parent trigger law, but six other states are now considering it.

Clark may be right that the question is “not whether to pull the trigger but figuring out where to aim,” but congratulations to Austin not just for encouraging parents to speak up, but for figuring out how to equip them with the hope that they can actually improve things.

–Peter Meyer

Last Updated


Notify Me When Education Next

Posts a Big Story

Business + Editorial Office

Program on Education Policy and Governance
Harvard Kennedy School
79 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
Phone (617) 496-5488
Fax (617) 496-4428

For subscription service to the printed journal
Phone (617) 496-5488

Copyright © 2024 President & Fellows of Harvard College