Georgia Legislator Introduces Parent Trigger Legislation

Published January 25, 2013

Rep. Edward Lindsey wants to make Georgia the eighth state to pass a Parent Trigger law.

House Bill 123, which Lindsey and five other legislators are cosponsoring, follows a new constitutional amendment permitting independent charter schools, which voters passed in November.

The legislation will simplify the process for letting parents apply to have failing public schools converted into charter schools. More than one-half of attending students’ households must sign the petition for a conversion before it can take place.

Lindsey emphasized only one signature per household would be counted. Two-parent homes would not be able to cast two votes. This departs from the pioneering Parent Trigger law in California, which counts votes by parent rather than household.

“We’re also looking at giving the parents more than one alternative,” Lindsey told School Reform News. “They could also simply petition that the existing administration in the school be replaced.”

Under the current version of the bill, the state’s lowest-performing 20 percent of schools would be eligible for conversion into a charter school if parents or teachers petition for that.

Concern for the Customer
“Only in education do you have such complete disregard for the customer. Parent Trigger changes that dynamic,” said RiShawn Biddle, editor of Dropout Nation.

Biddle said Parent Trigger laws can provide benefits even if parents fail to get enough petition signatures to require changes at their child’s school. Citing results in California, he said motivating parents to sign petitions created a more cooperative relationship between parents and administrators.

Finer, potentially divisive points will have to be hammered out in-session, Lindsey said. These include determining what role the local school board will have in the transition, as school boards control education funds for individual schools. Legislators will also consider what role, if any, teachers will have in the process.

“If a Parent Trigger got passed, it must provide the necessary resources for parents to establish the quality school they know their community needs,” said Andrew Lewis, executive vice president of the Georgia Charter School Association.

Charter School Myths
Lindsey, Biddle, and Lewis all said the Parent Trigger legislation in Georgia will likely be passed into law, and they agreed Parent Trigger proponents must first dispel some misconceptions.

Parent Trigger opponents often complain the law too strongly promotes charter schools, Lindsey said.

In addition, Lewis said, some argue charter schools primarily benefit white, middle-to-upper class students. Lewis said Georgia voters’ approval of the charter school amendment demonstrates they don’t believe that.

The constitutional amendment favoring independent charters garnered 58.4 percent of the popular vote in Georgia. Of those votes, one-third came from the 27 Georgia counties where racial minorities are the majority.

“This is not a Republican-Democrat or suburban-urban issue,” Lewis said. “It is an issue of access to quality public education. We don’t care what people call public schools other than quality.”


Image by Judy Baxter.