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A parent trigger is a legal maneuver through which parents can change the administration of a poorly performing public school—most notably, by transforming it into a charter school.
The first parent trigger law was passed by the California legislature in January 2010. Similar laws have been adopted subsequently by Louisiana, Mississippi, Connecticut, Texas, Indiana and Ohio. The law has been invoked by parents in the Compton and Adelanto school districts of California; both efforts have been blocked by legal challenges. Since the Compton campaign, parents in different Southern California have begun to use the law to enact changes in their schools.
Most recently in California, parents in 20th Street Elementary School and Palm Lane Elementary School have used the parent trigger law.
Parent trigger laws were first introduced by the Los Angeles Parents Union (LAPU), founded in 2006 by Green Dot Public Schools, a charter school company. Green Dot, led by Steve Barr, also conducted campaigns in Watts—using a pre-existing law for school transformation based on petitions from teachers—to transform public schools into charter schools.
In May 2009, Green Dot formed Parent Revolution, a group specifically intended to lobby for parent trigger laws and retaining LAPU head Ben Austin as Executive Director. The laws envisioned would allow 51% of parents to form a Parent Union with control over their school and the ability to transform it into a charter. Speaking at a meeting organized by Green Dot, LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa expressed support for the proposed laws.United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) criticized Green Dot and the mayor for attempted union busting.
In November 2009, the Los Angeles Unified School District passed parent trigger rules stating that a majority of parents or future parents could transfer a school to outside management. The decision won praise from Parents Revolution and criticism from UTLA. However, some charter operators objected to rules that required charter schools to include neighborhood students and to employ custodial services from the district. Parent Revolution, Mayor Villaraigosa, and others urged the state to pass similar laws.
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