“One of the critical elements that Parent Trigger adds to the education reform dialogue is the voice of parents in choosing what is best for their children,” said Myles Mendoza, a Democrats for Education Reform Senior Partner. “Too often parents have little power in the debate.”
In January 2010, California became the first state to enact Parent Trigger legislation. If more than 50 percent of parents whose children attend failing schools sign a petition, the school must be converted to a charter school, have most staff replaced, or be shut down, as the parents choose.
A national poll commissioned by advocacy group StudentsFirst found 70 percent of likely voters support the law. These results were identical to those in the 2012 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll.
“Though we were surprised to see that 70 percent of Americans favor parent trigger laws, we recognize that the words ‘failing schools’ incite action,” said Bill Bushaw, PDK executive director and PDK/Gallup Poll co-director. “We believe that this response shows that Americans clearly understand the importance of providing each child in our country with a high-quality education, although ideally, we hope people would become involved with their local school and take positive action long before the school is labeled ‘failing.’”
Strong Bi-Partisan Support
In both surveys, support for parent trigger policy was solidly bipartisan.
“While special interests get a lot of attention, they don’t represent the majority view,” said StudentsFirst CEO and former Washington DC Chancellor Michelle Rhee in a statement. “What parents actually support are common sense solutions, such as parent trigger laws, than can help hold schools accountable and ensure all kids are getting a great education.”
Of the likely voters responding in the PDK/Gallup Poll that they favor such laws in their state, 76 percent of Republicans were in favor, followed by 75 percent of Independents and 61 percent of Democrats. Fully 76 percent of public-school parents also favor Parent Trigger laws.
Among likely voters responding in the StudentsFirst poll, 78 percent of Republicans favor parent trigger laws, along with 68 percent of Independents and 65 percent of Democrats.
Support for Parent Trigger laws was also uniformly strong across racial groups, with 70 percent support from Caucasian voters, 68 percent support from African-American voters, and 70 percent support from Hispanic voters.
Results for Parents
To date, 20 states have considered Parent Trigger legislation, and six states besides California have adopted it: Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, and Texas.
“The controversy surrounding the parent trigger is in some respects manufactured,” according to Ben Boychuk, a Heartland Institute education policy advisor. “What you find are teachers unions and union-allied groups making specious arguments.”
Policymakers should recognize that “a lot of the supposed ‘parent’ opposition is overstated,” notes Boychuk, given the overwhelming support from public-school parents.
“The bottom line here is parents would rather have more options with their children’s schooling than what they have right now,” Boychuk adds. “And the important thing to understand about the Parent Trigger is it represents a means for parents to get results they might not get otherwise.”