Don't Shoot, But Is the Parent Trigger Idea Ready to Giddy Up in Colorado?

Here we are waist-deep into Colorado’s legislative session (at least I’m waist-deep, most big people are probably more like knee-deep). Pretty soon I may not be able to see the forest for the legislative bills. But there’s one policy idea from more than 1,000 miles away that has my attention right now. A few days ago Education Week reported that Georgia lawmakers have introduced a “parent trigger” bill (SB 68).

“Trigger?” I hear you say. “Whoaaaa, horsey!” (Some of you old-timers might get that one.)

Calm down. Don’t get your saddle in a bunch. The bill doesn’t have anything to do with guns or Second Amendment issues, or you might see the Independence Institute’s Dave Kopel writing about this rather than yours truly. The good folks at the Heartland Institute, who have widely promoted the parent trigger concept, explain it well:

The Parent Trigger is an innovation in education reform recently passed into law in California. Briefly put, if half the parents whose children attend a failing public school sign a petition requesting reform of the school, the school must either shut down, become a charter school, or undergo one of two other types of reform.

While telling you five weeks ago about our own upcoming legislative session, I brought attention to one new state representative who was considering introducing a similar version of the proposal here in Colorado (as reported in Ed News Colorado):

Freshman Rep. Don Beezley, R-Broomfield, said, “You’ll find me pretty focused on charter schools and parent empowerment. I’m looking at a couple of charter-related bills.” Specifics remain to be fleshed out; “We’re working on it.”

Beezley said he’s interested in the “parent trigger” idea, referring to a California law that allows organized parents to take over a failing school and have it turned in to a charter, its teachers and principals replaced.

So even as I read about the idea gaining traction in Georgia, I was reminded of Rep. Beezley’s comments. Word on the street is that the specifics are being fleshed out and that an official bill should be introduced soon. Charter and innovation school options should both be on the table. Empowers parents of students in a poorly-performing school to choose a high-quality reform option? The idea can’t come soon enough for me (but then again, I’m 5 years old and have very little patience).

Well, as then-candidate and now-governor John Hickenlooper made famous last year, let’s hope Colorado’s own version of the “parent trigger” is ready to Giddy Up!