Illinois Should Weigh Use of Parent Trigger

Published December 23, 2010

In expressing grave concern that an ad hoc, bipartisan House committee somehow might put a package of Illinois school reforms on a fast track to legislative approval, you argue that teachers ought to be heard as part of a “careful, deliberate consideration” of any proposal (“School reform shouldn’t be quick process,” Dec. 19).

Given that you quote a teacher union flack as decrying the possibility of something being “slammed through” over the holidays, it appears you are supporting the union anti-reform strategy of delay and kill.

Be that as it may, what’s most remarkable is that you don’t mention parents as having any right to be heard. Perhaps that is because parents don’t have a union. However, if Illinois should join other states in adopting an innovation called the Parent Trigger, parents at last will have real power to effect change in education.

As rolled out first in California, the Trigger means that when more than half of a failing school’s parents sign a petition of no confidence in their school’s management, local school authorities are obliged to convert the facility to an independently managed charter school or otherwise make changes in staff leadership. Another possibility would be to offer parents scholarships to send their children to better schools.

It is encouraging that lawmakers of both parties are jointly analyzing possible reforms such as linking teacher pay to performance. They would do well to add the Parent Trigger to their agenda — and, of course, to welcome parents as well as teachers to say what they think about such a bold move to change the dynamics of school accountability.
Robert Holland
Senior fellow
for education policy
The Heartland Institute