School Choice & Charters

Parent-Trigger Bills Progress in States’ Legislatures

By Katie Ash — March 08, 2013 2 min read
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At least three states—Florida, Georgia, and Oklahoma—advanced parent-trigger laws this week, although none of those efforts have yet become laws.

• In Florida, a parent-trigger bill passed the state’s House education choice and innovation subcommittee in an 8-5 vote down party lines with Republicans supporting the bill and Democrats voting against it. Last year, a similar bill passed the House but died in the Senate on a tie vote on the last day of the legislative session, making it one of the most controversial pieces of education legislation that year.

The new bill would allow parents whose students attend F-rated schools, of which there were 34 last year, according to The Orlando Sentinel, to weigh in on how those schools could be improved. If the parents’ decision conflicts with the local school board’s decision, then the state board of education would have the final say in how to proceed.

• Georgia’s House of Representatives passed, by a 97-74 vote, a parent-trigger bill that would allow parents and teachers to petition their local school boards to turn regular schools into charter schools. The bill is now headed to the Senate. Under the bill, if 60 percent of teachers and staff or 60 percent of parents submit a petition to change the school into a charter, it can only be rejected if at least two-thirds of the local school board votes to oppose the petition.

• And in Oklahoma, a parent-trigger bill has cleared the Senate by a 30-12 vote almost completely down party lines (just two Republicans voted against the measure, and one Democrat supported it). The bill, dubbed the Parent Empowerment Act, would allow parents whose children attend low-performing schools to petition to change the school into a charter or—in districts with more than 5,000 students—replace the administrators.

If the petition is denied by the local school board, the Oklahoma state department of education will make the final decision. Low-performing schools are defined as schools that have received a D or F for the past two years under the state’s education grading system or if the school has earned a D or F in the past two out of three years, as long as the school earned a D or F in the most recent year.

At least seven states have parent-trigger laws on the books, and about 20 states have considered implementing such measures according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. So far, such laws have only been used by parents in California, which passed the first parent-trigger law, and have only been successful twice—most recently in an effort to overhaul an elementary school in Los Angeles.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.