Research & Commentary: Florida Parent Trigger

Published February 20, 2012

Florida legislators have proposed an education reform that is garnering significant national attention: the Parent Trigger. The legislation, first passed in California, is currently being drafted in a dozen other states. The Florida Parent Trigger would allow a simple majority of parents at a school to “trigger” one of three reform options: close the school and allow the students to transfer to better-performing public schools, convert the school into a charter school, or contract with an outside firm to run the school.

The Parent Trigger would empower parents, increase competition among schools, and save taxpayers money. By empowering parents, it holds educators and school systems directly accountable for their performance.

Critics charge the measure would turn public schools over to private corporations, removing them from state requirements for public schools and reducing the transparency of public funds. They also say not all parents want the power to disrupt schools and the law would pit parents against each other and teachers.

Reform advocates note decades of research confirm that private corporations consistently perform services more completely, inexpensively, and with better constituent satisfaction than government institutions do. Charter schools and private management have a relatively short track record, but they have already demonstrated better student achievement at lower taxpayer costs than traditional public schools.

They also note parental authority over their children’s education puts power in the hands of the people who care most deeply and only about the children involved. The trigger requires parents to work together, not against each other, and gives them authority that is rightfully theirs. It also gives them a bargaining chip to make school administrators take their needs more seriously, making resorting to the trigger less likely.

The following documents offer further information about the Parent Trigger legislation pending in Florida.


‘Parent Trigger’ Laws Gain Traction, But Slowly
The Parent Trigger is designed to offer an outlet for widespread family and community frustration with failing schools, reports Education Week. The trigger compels district and school officials to take parents’ concerns seriously and engage them in plans to reform poor schools, says the bill’s Florida House sponsor. The article also outlines the brief history and current status of such legislation.

Bill Will Help Parents Take Control
In education politics, children too often serve as a debit card, valued for the cash they bring in, writes Gloria Romero in the Florida Sun-Sentinel. Parents, however, don’t see their children that way, and they deserve a good deal of say in their children’s education. The Parent Empowerment in Education Acts before the Florida legislature will offer that, Romero writes. Because they share their children’s interests, parents bring a needed urgency to school reform decisions.

Q & A: Gloria Romero, Author of California’s ‘Parent Trigger’ Law
StateImpact Florida interviews former state Sen. Gloria Romero, author of the first Parent Trigger law in California. Romero tells of having grown frustrated with the bureaucratic inertia that prevented fixing failing schools, and her decision to author a law that “gives real rights to match the responsibility parents have and feel towards trying to fight for the best education options for their children.” If school administrators and school boards won’t address children’s needs, parents should be able to. Parents, Romero notes, are the only ones in education who are not a special interest.

Empowering Parents and Students with More Choices
The 2012 legislative agenda from the Foundation for Florida’s Future sets Parent Empowerment as one of its four pillars. This backgrounder outlines the policies that promote parental choice and influence in education, and it states that Florida Senate Bill 1718 and House Bill 1191 Parent Trigger legislation would accomplish that goal by giving parents the ability to turn around failing schools.

Parents, State and Business Leaders Endorse More Parental Involvement in Schools
The Parent Trigger and empowerment measures before the Florida legislature receive enthusiastic support from the Foundation for Florida’s Future, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida, Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options, and Students First, notes an FFF press release. The release outlines the main components of the Florida House and Senate bills and practical and philosophical reasons to support them, including that the bills would give parents “a seat at the table” of education decision-making and free families from failing schools.

The Heartland Institute’s Parent Trigger Web Site
This Web site aggregates news, policy studies, research, and commentary about Parent Trigger legislation and its spread across the country.

ALEC Model Bill: The Parent Trigger
Written and introduced by The Heartland Institute, this American Legislative Exchange Council bill outlines a recommended Parent Trigger policy. This is a useful guide in developing Parent Trigger legislation.



Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. For further information on this and other topics, visit the School Reform News Web site at, The Heartland Institute’s Web site at, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database, at

If you have any questions about this issue or The Heartland Institute, contact Heartland education policy research fellow Joy Pullmann, at 312/377-4000 or [email protected].