Families & the Community

New Parent-Trigger Bills Fail to Gain Traction in States This Year

By Sarah Tully — March 18, 2016 2 min read
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With the recent news about the rejection of a parent-trigger petition in Los Angeles, I was curious about what other states are considering new laws to give parents a route to greater power over their children’s schools.

As it turns out, not many this year.

Josh Cunningham, a senior education policy specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures, checked on whether state legislatures are advancing new parent trigger laws this year for me. He found out that lawmakers in four states—Iowa, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania—have introduced bills to create parent-trigger laws. But no action has been taken.

Colorado House of Representatives members tried to add a parent-trigger amendment to a bill on another issue, but it failed, Cunningham said in an email.

Now, just six states have parent-trigger laws. It used to be seven.

“I no longer count Connecticut because its law doesn’t involve any sort of parent petition and the school governance councils created under their law often struggle to find enough parents wiling to serve on the council to give the parents a majority,” Cunningham wrote.

The parent-trigger concept was popular, initially. In 2010, California was the first state to pass a law that allows parents to collect signatures to transform low-performing schools, such as by turning them into charter schools or changing the administration.

In 2013, 20 states were considering parent-trigger laws, but that dropped to 13 the following year. The number has declined since then, and no new laws have passed since 2012.

California remains the only state where the law has been used. Parents in most schools where parent trigger campaigns have been attempted have struggled to make changes. See snapshots of all of the parent-trigger campaigns as of last year.

Just this month, Desert Trails, the first California school to successfully become a charter under the parent-trigger law, switched its oversight to the San Bernardino County Board of Education. Its original district, Adelanto Elementary School District, refused to renew the school’s charter.

Also, the Los Angeles Unified School District rejected a petition by the 20th Street Elementary School to become a charter school under the parent-trigger law. Parent leaders are considering legal action, according to a March 15 story by Sonali Kohli of the Los Angeles Times.

Related story: After Divisive Start, Use of Parent Trigger Law Matures.

A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.