Ohio Budget Proposal Includes Parent Empowerment Provision

Published May 31, 2016

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) is proposing to give Buckeye State parents the chance to petition their local districts to reform failing public schools.

HB 153 is based on California’s parent empowerment law, which lets parents whose children attend a failing school petition to force the school district to adopt one of several reforms if a majority sign a petition.

Kasich’s proposal met with disapproval from Democrats, including teachers union representatives and at least one member of the state board of education. Jeffrey J. Mims Jr., who was elected to the state board in November and previously served on the school board in Dayton, called the Parent Trigger “another gimmick” and said it would be “a waste of money, a waste of time, and a waste of the educational lives of children.”

‘The Ultimate Trump Card’

Marc Oestreich, an education policy specialist at The Heartland Institute, rebutted critics of the plan in testimony before Ohio legislators in April.

“This bill is needed to improve Ohio’s public education, especially for those whose schools are failing,” Oestreich said. “For Ohio parents fed up with failing public school monopolies, the Parent Trigger is the ultimate trump card.”

Ohio ranks 50th in the nation on Heartland’s 2010 State School Reform Report Card, which assessed public school efficiency using several novel metrics, including the dollar cost of each point gained on national standardized tests.

“Looking at those measures, it is clear Ohio is failing to get any bang for their taxpayer dollar when it comes to education,” Oestreich told lawmakers.

Limited Reach

“The policy itself is not prescriptive and does not force schools to accept state or nationwide blanket solutions,” Oestreich explained. “Instead, it enables local control over the reform process.”

Terry Ryan, vice president for Ohio Programs and Policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, notes Kasich’s proposed Parent Trigger would not be as radical or as sweeping as its critics—and supporters—suggest. Ryan says only 29 of the state’s 3,372 schools would qualify for possible transformation using 2009-10 data.

“It’s really relevant to a handful of districts, with one or two schools at most qualifying,” Ryan said, adding that Cleveland is the exception with about 10 schools meeting the threshold for failure.

The Parent Trigger is a “good place to start,” Ryan said, “but I’m not sure it should generate the hue and cry from critics.”

Ben Boychuk ([email protected]) is managing editor of School Reform News.