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Texas Parent Trigger Laws

Texas CSCOPE Review
July 18, 2013

By Janice

Parent Trigger Laws

Texas and several other states have in effect Parent Trigger Laws that allow parents to do something about low performing schools. In Texas, parents can convert their local school district to a charter school, replace administrative management, or close the school.

Overview from National Conference of State Legislatures

The concept of a parent trigger policy gained national attention in January 2010 when California passed the nation’s first parent trigger law. The basic concept of the policy is that parents have the ability to intervene in their child’s school if it is performing poorly. With enough signatures from parents, any number of actions can be taken against the low performing school. These can include converting it to a charter school, replacing some of the school’s administration and faculty, and closing the school altogether. Some have also proposed offering affected students private school vouchers.

Advocates argue that parents should have a more active role in how their child’s school is managed. They also claim that the traditional procedures for turning around low performing schools are too slow and heavily influenced by political interests, not necessarily the students’ interests. Supporters hope that the existence of a parent trigger law will encourage schools and districts to better communicate existing school improvements to parents in hopes of avoiding a parent petition.

Opponents claim that there are mechanisms already in place to intervene in low performing schools. They point to school accountability committees and local school boards as the existing means for parents to be involved in the operation of their child’s school. They also worry that parents may not be aware of the changes low performing schools have already made such as hiring new administration and teachers. Some raise concerns that corporate charter school operators are using these laws to expand their business, an argument that some states look to address by prohibiting charter school operators from funding petition campaigns.

What the States Have Done

As of March 2013, at least 25 states have considered parent trigger legislation and seven of them have enacted some version of the law. The seven states are: California, Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio (pilot program in the Columbus School District) and Texas. While each state has taken a different approach, there are some common provisions that most states have included in their laws. Most of the states include a process by which parents of children attending a low-performing school can sign a petition that initiates an intervention in the operation of the school. Each state law also lists what intervention options are available to parents. Most of the states describe the role of the state education agency in determining what happens to the school, and some states include an appeal process for the school district overseeing the targeted school.

A comparison of these seven states that have passed parent trigger laws can be viewed HERE.