The 'Parent Trigger' Lesson: Giving Parents (and Kids) a Real Seat at the Education Reform Table
It began with hope.
Four years ago, believing real parent power and engagement in education policy helps ensure a 'kids-first' agenda in California schools, we started the non-profit Parent Revolution with little more than hope, optimism for a better future, and an unquestioned dedication to making things better for kids whose schools are failing them.
Those of you tracking the front lines of education policy have likely heard about the "disruptive" new power afforded parents in California:
Under California’s 2010 Parent Empowerment Act—commonly called the ‘Parent Trigger’ law – parents with kids stuck in persistently failing schools have the legal right to be heard and to turnaround the school that has been failing their children.
Parent Revolution created the Parent Trigger so parents with children in failing schools have a real seat at the education decision-making table.
For schools pushing out students year after year who are wholly unprepared to succeed, this process is indeed disruptive, as it should be. It disrupts the status quo which compels parents to bus their children across the city or enroll them in private schools just to get a quality education.
Our public schools were built to serve the community.
In communities where nothing else has worked—where talking with teachers, administrative leadership, and school board members has yielded no progress—where parents are given little more than promises until their children graduate out of the school, the Parent Trigger process shifts raw political power directly to organized groups of concerned parents to bring about real, positive change.
California parents can generate a legal process of real reforms, raising the interests of their children above the haze of inertia leaving their children behind.
Make no mistake about it: The parent trigger process is a powerful political tool that ensures parents are not pushed to the side by powerful defenders of the status quo. It is a tool making our public schools more public, accountable to the very interests and needs these institutions were built to serve: the best interests of our children. It is a tool every parent in every state deserves to ensure real accountability by those running failing schools.
And the Parent Trigger process works.
It's being used in Los Angeles' 24th Street Elementary School, where district officials are now one of eight organizations bidding to transform the school. After being ignored for years, parents used the Parent Trigger as a negotiation tool to obtain the best education for their children. In August 2013, they will see the fruits of their efforts when a transformed school opens its doors for the new school year.
The law has been used in Adelanto, California's Desert Trails Elementary School, where the district stridently opposed the parents' effort for 18 months until compelled by two judges to comply with the law and meet the parents' demands. In January, the Adelanto School Board voted unanimously—and enthusiastically—to support the parents' choice of a new non-profit operator to run the school.
In the end, children in both of these California schools will walk into schools better designed, equipped, and committed to meet their needs this coming fall.
Welcome to the (parent) revolution...
A revolution ensuring all kids get a top-quality education—and all schools implement a kids-first agenda.
Public education is the great equalizer providing opportunity for all. It is at the core of the American dream that each child can achieve success if given an equal opportunity. Far too many kids aren't receiving the education they deserve. This is unacceptable. It cannot continue in a country founded on the basic principle of equal opportunity for all.
Parents in California on the front lines of a movement rejecting the belief that some students just can't learn and some schools are simply bound to fail.
As the call for real parent empowerment continues to spread, we invite you to join the movement. Coalitions of parents and community leaders are gathering in coffee shops, church basements, and community centers in dozens of states as we speak, with more meetings on the way soon.
If you would like to join a meeting (or even help start one of your own) let us know. This has—and always has been—a community movement. We need the voices of next generation leaders like yours to ensure parents are able to take and keep their rightful seat at the decision-making table for 21st century education policy.
With your support, parents from coast to coast will soon have the same power afforded those in California to turnaround failing schools when no one else can or will.
Paper cut family image via Shutterstock