Education Transformation
For Public Schools, the Age of the Expert Is Ending

Watch out, public schools: the parents are coming. The effort to give parents more direct control over the public school system through what are called “parent trigger” laws is taking off across the country, according to the Hechinger Report. Politicians have introduced bills that would give parents the power to do things like fire a school principal or large numbers of its staff—as long as a majority of parents sign a petition for the change. Some of these bills would also allow parents to hand over a public school to a “charter operator.”

These efforts are modeled on a 2010 law passed in California called the Parent Empowerment Act of 2010, and some states have versions already on the books. Many of the bills currently up for debate seek to strengthen existing laws. Advocates are particularly focused on Texas and Tennessee:

Supporters of the legislation celebrated a small victory this week. On Wednesday, the Tennessee Senate Education Committee advanced a parent-trigger bill on a 5-0 vote […]

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who tried unsuccessfully to pass a similar bill as a state senator, supports strengthening his state’s law by shortening how long parents must wait to invoke it. He said the aggressive overhaul tool should be available to the parents of 148,000 students “trapped” at 297 school campuses that failed to meet performance targets for two consecutive years […]

In Tennessee, a pair of identical bills by DeBerry and State Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, would lower the parent signature requirement from a minimum of 60 percent to 51 percent. The legislation requires that parents who sign a petition also pledge to participate actively in their child’s education and support the school once it’s restructured.

Many of the bills—besides California’s 2010 act—haven’t passed, and the Hechinger Report notes that only California has seen parents organize a “full-fledged parent-trigger campaign.” And in California, the law hasn’t been used too often by parents—though it has been used to change one school into a nonprofit charter. So for now, at least, there aren’t radical changes on the horizon.

Still, the move to hand over more power to parents is very much of a part with other trends in education right now, including the rise of homeschooling and the grassroots assault on common core. As more and more people grow to distrust the ability of the public school system and the experts who run it to educate their children, expect to see more alternatives spring up—whether that’s homeschooling or stricter parental control over schools. The age of the expert is ending—the age of the parent is here.

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