New Parent Trigger Study Shows Parents How to Reform Their Schools

Published October 29, 2012

The Heartland Institute has released a new Policy Brief on the Parent Trigger, a public school reform adopted in seven states and proposed in some 20 others across the nation. Authored by Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast and Research Fellow Joy Pullmann, “The Parent Trigger: Justification and Design Guidelines” gives parents the tools they need to fix their failing local public schools – including a sample petition.

To schedule an interview with Mr. Bast or Ms. Pullmann, or to book them on your program, please contact Tammy Nash at [email protected] and 312/377-4000. After regular business hours, contact Jim Lakely at [email protected] and 312/731-9364.

This is the third Heartland report on the Parent Trigger since this revolutionary parent-empowerment reform first passed in California in 2010. (Read those previous reports here and here.) While Parent Trigger laws can vary from state to state, they all allow a majority of parents and guardians of children attending a particular public school to sign a petition demanding reform – which then requires the school district to do what the parents ask.

Some Parent Trigger laws specify only schools that are “failing” according to some existing or new set of standards can be triggered. The number of schools that can be triggered can be limited to a specific number or be unlimited. The list of reform models from which parents can choose also varies, with some allowing only conversion of public schools into charter schools while others would give parents vouchers or opportunity scholarships to use at their choice of any school, public or private. Other options include “turnaround” and “transformation,” two bureaucratic options described in the national Race to the Top program.

This Policy Brief presents the rationale for empowering parents with Parent Trigger legislation and then offers design guidelines for parents and elected officials interested in crafting legislation for their city or state. It carries the analysis of Heartland’s previous reports considerably further by citing many of the bills that have been introduced since they were written. This report also benefitted from a series of Research & Commentary collections produced by Pullmann and available on Heartland’s Web site at

The Heartland Institute is a 28-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.