Parent Trigger Online Debate Begins Today

Published August 15, 2011

TUNE IN: Online Debate Begins Monday, August 15, 2011.


In 2010, California enacted education legislation known as the “parent trigger.” The legislation empowers parents of children at schools that have failed to meet annual yearly progress for at least four years to change the administration, convert the school to a charter, or shut it down completely if they gather signatures from at least 51% of parents at the school. Similar legislation exists in Mississippi and Connecticut, but has failed to become law in Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, and Maryland. 

In the first online debate, Ben Boychuk and Julie Cavanagh will examine the arguments in favor and in opposition to this reform, focusing on the experience to date in California and developments in other parts of the country where similar legislation is being considered. 

Many school reformers believe that this law puts the interests of children ahead of teachers and helps to save children in failing schools before the clock runs out. Many education professionals, among them the president of the California Federation of Teachers, view the law as a “lynch mob provision,” intended to dismantle the public school system. The politics of the “parent trigger” are confusing, with the lines between conservatives and liberals often blurred. 

The debate will go live on August 15th at 12 p.m. ET at Over the next four days Ben Boychuk and Julie Cavanagh will have an opportunity to respond to the opposing view, with final remarks posted at 12 p.m. ET on August 18th. 

If you would like to schedule an interview with Ben Boychuk or Julie Cavanagh, please contact Kasia Zabawa at (646) 839-3342 or by email at [email protected].

Ben Boychuk is associate editor of City Journal, where he writes on education and California politics. Previously, he served as managing editor of the Heartland Institute’s School Reform News and the Claremont Review of Books. He is also a former editorial writer for Investor’s Business Daily and the Press-Enterprise in Riverside, California. Boychuk writes a weekly column for the Sacramento Bee and Scripps-Howard News Service. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the New York Post, National Review Online, the Korea Times and newspapers across the United States.

Julie Cavanagh has been a special education teacher for more than ten years in Red Hook, Brooklyn.  She currently serves children with intellectual disabilities in grades first through third and previously served children with learning differences in grades four and five. Julie received her BS in special education from Indiana University, her MS in curriculum and teaching from Fordham University, where she was an Ennis Cosby Scholar, and her advanced degree in administration and supervision from Brooklyn College. She is a member of Grassroots Education Movement; advocating for equity and real reform in our public education system. Julie is also the co-producer of the documentary The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman.

Image by Aloizio Mercadante Oliva.