California About to Pull the ‘Trigger’ on Education Reform

Call it school choice on steroids. Prodded by constituents and drawn to the carrot of more federal funding, California lawmakers have approved something reformers are calling the “parent trigger.” In a nutshell, here is how it works: if a school has failed to meet federal standards for several years in a row, parents can force it to undertake serious corrective action, such as hiring new staff or working with a charter school. There are 1,726 schools that fall into this parent-trigger category, according to the San Jose Mercury News. That’s a whole lot of education reform potential.

Aside from the obvious benefits of shaking up the educational establishment, bringing more choice to parents, and increasing the quality of education for students, a few other pros as well as some cons come to mind.

Pro: This reform does away with one of the stereotypical criticisms of other school choice efforts—that uninformed or uninvolved parents won’t be able to make wise choices or even care enough to make any choice as to where to send their children. Presumably, since a 50-percent consent is necessary, there will be discussion and engagement among parents.

Con: Individual parents who want change are still at the mercy of the 50-percent majority who might not agree.

Pro: This beautifully maximizes the potential for school choice. Instead of one-size fits all, this is an all-sizes-fit-all approach. Some school districts may go for charter schools. Some may go for new, better teachers. Some may do something else. Pick the education reform of your choice.

Con: Because of the way this is structured, there is no guarantee much of anything will happen. Sounds like much of it relies on parent initiative. So School District A may not get any reform because not enough parents cared or were organized.

For more on this:

Read about the parent group that got it all started here. Read the San Francisco Chronicle coverage of the legislation here. Read another explanation of how this will work here.


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