Parent ‘Trigger’ to be Used as Last Resort

Published April 13, 2011

Too often, so-called “demonstration projects” are where innovations in public education go to die. That might not be the intent of Columbus school Superintendent Gene Harris in suggesting Gov. John Kasich’s proposed “parent trigger” be diverted to demo status, but that almost surely would be the result. (“Parents could get club to fix bad school,” Dispatch article, April 4.) Tedious reports would gather dust, years would pass and a promising venture in parental empowerment would wither on the vine.

In truth, the trigger, which enables parents to force a change in a failing school’s management, would be passing tough tests from the get-go.

It would enter the school-reform toolbox only after a school had landed among the lowest-performing 5 percent of Ohio schools three years running.

Then, only after at least half of a school’s parents signed a petition of dissatisfaction would a change of leadership become mandatory.

Finally, judging by what’s happening in California with the first parental initiative under a trigger law, the education establishment will engage in every form of obstructionism it can devise to thwart parent power.

If enacted, a parent trigger would not take effect overnight. However, such a law would make parents more influential players in reform, perhaps to the extent of some principals and superintendents listening to their concerns for the very first time.


Senior fellow for education policy

The Heartland Institute