Hundreds of Mayors Call for ‘Parent Triggers’ to Seize Failing Schools
On Saturday, the U.S. Conference of Mayors met in Orlando, Florida, and unanimously backed "parent trigger" laws that would empower parents of children trapped in failing public schools to sidestep elected school boards, fire bad teachers and administrators, and even turn schools over to private management.
Parent triggers are also creating a strong wedge between Democrats who favor them and the big teachers unions who vehemently oppose them.
In a sign of the unions' diminishing clout, their traditional political allies, the Democrats, abandoned them in droves during the Orlando vote.
Democratic Mayors Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles and Kevin Johnson of Sacramento led the charge for parent trigger - and were backed by scores of other Democrats as well as Republicans from coast to coast.
"Mayors understand at a local level that most parents lack the tools they need to turn their schools around," Villaraigosa said.
Groups seeking to infuse more free-market competition into U.S. public schools, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation, also support parent triggers.
However, even in states like California where parent triggers exist, the big money teacher unions have been successful in stymieing poor, minority parents:
Parents in two impoverished, heavily minority California cities, Compton and Adelanto, gathered enough signatures to seize control of their neighborhood schools but the process stalled in the face of ferocious opposition from teachers' unions. Both cases are now tied up in court.
Other states, like Connecticut, Mississippi, and Texas already have similar pro-parent provisions. Parent triggers are currently being considered in Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, and elsewhere.