California's Parent Trigger Law Is (Finally) Helping Improve Public Schools


Lawmakers in California passed the Parent Trigger law back in 2010. The law allows parents of children attending failing public schools to force major changes if half of the parents sign a petition. Last year, parents of children attending Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, Calif., pulled the parent trigger and transformed the school to a public charter school called Desert Trails Preparatory Academy. "We've seen major, major progress…since the beginning of the year," says Debra Tarver, executive director of Desert Trails Preparatory Academy.  

In other California school districts, just the threat of Parent Trigger is helping parents get what they want.

Back in 2011, Reason TV covered the first ever attempt by parents, with the help of the non-profit organization Parent Revolution, to use the Parent Trigger. While the effort by parents at McKinley Elementary to use the Parent Trigger ultimately failed, parents at other California schools are figuring out how use the law to their advantage, and at least seven other states have adopted some form of the Parent Trigger.

"California's Parent Trigger Law: Compton Parents Take on the Public School System," produced by Paul Feine and Alex Manning. About 8:30 minutes.

Original release date was March 2, 2011. The original write-up is below.

Last year, parents of students in failing California public schools were given a reason to be hopeful when Sacramento politicians passed something called the "parent trigger" law. The way the law works is that if 51% of parents at a failing school sign a petition, they can turn the school into a charter school, replace the staff or simply use the petition as a bargaining chip to initiate a conversation about change.

On December 7, 2010, with help from the non-profit group Parent Revolution, parents of children attending McKinley Elementary in Compton became the first group of parents to pull the parent trigger. Their dream was to transform the school into a Celerity charter school. Instead, the Compton parents were thrust into a prolonged fight with supporters of the status quo: the Compton Unified School District, the teachers' unions, Gov. Jerry Brown and Tom Torlakson, the newly elected Superintendent of Public Instruction.

This is the story about a group of parents in Compton who are fighting to give their children a better education.