Current Education Issues: What are Parent Trigger Laws?

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Current Education IssuesAmong the current education issues we face in America, there are some hot topics in education popping up.

One topic that is of utmost importance is parent trigger laws. These laws give parents more discretion about their child’s failing school.

The idea behind these laws is to give parents of children who attend a failing school, the opportunity to “trigger” or petition changes within the school.

The ideas that render this one of the hot topics in education, is that the schools can be closed, teachers and/or principals fired, schools transformed into charter schools, students given vouchers for private schools.

This is a different approach to current education issues, that attempts to place power in parent’s hands, allowing them to be more involved.

Unfortunately, the difficulty with parents having control is that most don’t understand the processes of teaching. Also, failing can have many different definitions. And, even if a petition is brought fourth and set in motion for a failing school, it can get tied up in the legal system, as it did for one of the only two schools to have such a petition filed. These are some of the reasons the parent trigger laws are among some of the hot topics in education.

There are currently two schools in the United States that have had a petition filed – Compton Unified School District and Adelanto School District.
At Compton, a group who called themselves Parent Revolution, generated their own hot topics in education, by allegedly misrepresenting the information and laws in order to get signatures for the petition. The claims were that Parent Revolution wanted the school to be transformed into a charter school for the expansion of a charter school already established. They were accused of exploiting the law to push their own agenda. The petition was revoked and nothing came of it, ultimately neither addressing or correcting any current education issues in the school.

In Adelanto, the Parent Revolution group was again the pushing force for the petition. With first an overwhelming 70% of parents behind the petition, it dropped to 50% after some of the same controversies occurred that had at Compton. After much back and fourth between the school board and the California Superior Court, the ultimate decision was to create an advisory committee comprised of parents, teachers, a community member, and representatives of the superintendent. The parents were not satisfied with this decision, and are expected to challenge this decision. Unfortunately, the whole processes has left most everyone involved unsatisfied.

There are seven states that have passed some form of a parent-trigger laws in response to current education issues.

California, Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, and Texas all have variations of parent trigger laws. In some states, the school district needs to be failing for three consecutive years before a petition can be started. Some states don’t allow a petition at all, but review the schools at a state level and decide which districts need work.

All in all, parent trigger laws are being talked about as very hot topics in education among current education issues and it is important to understand why. Some see these laws as wrong because it can take jobs away from teachers and principals, decided in part by parents who may have never taught before. Their point of view is that someone who has never taught before cannot fairly decide if teachers teach adequately. Also, some feel that these laws open an unfair advantage to push for charter schools instead of public.

The good, is that this creates more of a spotlight on failing schools, and hopefully raises the bar in education. Among all the current education issues, parent trigger laws most certainly belong on the list of top hot topics in education.

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