As state legislators debate major issues this year, we hope Senate Bill 1001 isn't lost in the mix. The “Parent Empowerment Act,” better known as the “parent trigger” law, deserves lawmakers' attention.
Under the bill, if a majority of parents in an underperforming school sign a petition, they can force the school's transition to a charter school or force the firing of current administrators. Schools facing this prospect would be those getting a D or an F for at least two consecutive years on their state report card, or a D or F for two of three years if the most recent grade is low.
The concept has bipartisan support. Its authors are state Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, and state Sen. Jabar Shumate, D-Tulsa.
Too often, officials blame “student demographics” for poor school performance. In plain English, that translates: “Poor + minority = academic laggard.” Holt and Shumate rightfully reject that line of thinking. They believe all children can learn if a school is properly managed.
Some may question who would rush to assume oversight of a failing school once administrators are dismissed. That wasn't a problem when the parent trigger was used at an elementary school in Los Angeles. Eight providers, including six existing nonprofit charter school operators, quickly expressed interest.
Trigger laws were the focus of an excellent 2012 movie, “Won't Back Down,” set in Pennsylvania.
Those who typically blame school shortcomings on a lack of parental involvement will likely object to this legislation, which requires majority parental involvement. The parent trigger is local control on steroids.
We don't expect the trigger to be pulled often. It won't be a silver bullet for education woes. But the mere threat of it will increase parents' leverage when dealing with school bureaucracies and encourage needed change at low-performing schools.
That alone would make this legislation a success.