Parent trigger laws: Parents can fire school staffs

As expected, Georgia lawmakers are pushing for a version of California’s controversial parent trigger bill to overhaul failing schools even as that state grapples with how to put its law into action.

Introduced this week in the General Assembly, Senate Bill 68 mimics the California law, which allows the majority of parents in low-performing schools to petition for major changes, including replacing staff and programs or bringing in a charter management operator.

However, the parent trigger law is running into problems in California where state education officials now say they are uncertain how to implement it and want a study group to look at the law. (The bureaucratic version of sending someone to Siberia.)

I am not sure of the wisdom of adopting a California law that hasn’t even been put into effect yet. Consider what happened yesterday.

According to a story in today’s LA Times:

The state Board of Education, in its first full meeting with a majority of members appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown, moved Wednesday to put the brakes on a landmark law that gives parents the right to force major reforms at low-performing schools.

The board took no action on proposed regulations to implement the law but instead will set up a working group to help determine the procedures. The panel will include those who had complained that the previous board was rushing the process without sufficiently considering their input. The board will reconsider the issue in March.

“We believe all parties involved in public schools should have a say before critical decisions are made,” said Richard Zeiger, chief deputy superintendent of public instruction.

But critics charge that the delay is politically motivated and aimed at derailing the law, known as the parent trigger, which allows the majority of parents at low-performing schools to petition for such sweeping reforms as major staffing and program changes or turning over campus management to a charter operator. Charters are independently run and publicly financed.

In what one critic called a “bombshell” statement, state education officials said Wednesday that it would be difficult to write clear regulations based on the law because it was too vague. As a result, officials said they are working on “cleanup” legislation with state Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica), who heads the Assembly Education Committee and last year voted against the bill containing the parent-trigger provisions.

It should be interesting to watch the Georgia debate on this law since the California model has not advanced enough to offer any lessons to other states.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

79 comments Add your comment

Top School

February 10th, 2011
9:23 pm

I think the PARENT title in Atlanta, Georgia is STEP UP…OR STEP DOWN.

APS SUPERINTENDENT HALL refused to step down or leave the SCHOOL SYSTEM and instead handed most of HER powers to HER SCHOOL BOARD Thursday, enraging PARENTS who warned the CITY OF ATLANTA could explode in RAGE and pleaded for SACS to take action to push HER out.

(Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak refused to step down or leave the country and instead handed most of his powers to his vice president Thursday, enraging protesters who warned the country could explode in violence and pleaded for the military to take action to push him out.)

Now, the Step Up parents have aligned themselves with the corrupt leader to allow for continuity as they scramble to cover up the less than democratic leadership of their Northside, Atlanta Public Schools.

The political cesspool in charge…heaven forbid if you give them any more power on the Northside of Atlanta…They will change their child’s teacher every time he/she makes a failing grade.
The PRIVATE SCHOOLS tell them to hit the door.

Toto: Exposing naked body scanners...

February 10th, 2011
9:29 pm

The REAL parent trigger:
Go Egyptian. Home school en masse.

Dr. John Trotter

February 10th, 2011
9:39 pm

Another stupid idea from California. All of the ineffective fads start in California. Georgia, the Goober State, always jumps in line to follow California.

Ed Johnson

February 10th, 2011
9:40 pm

@Top School (”APS SUPERINTENDENT HALL refused to step down or leave the SCHOOL SYSTEM and instead handed most of HER powers to HER SCHOOL BOARD Thursday, enraging PARENTS who warned the CITY OF ATLANTA could explode in RAGE and pleaded for SACS to take action to push HER out.”):

What source?

Ed Johnson

February 10th, 2011
9:47 pm

There is a better way!

For example…

Quality Learning Australia


February 10th, 2011
9:51 pm

It’s a mess. Send your children to private schools. Move out of the cess pool that is the City of Atlanta and quit wasting valuable tax dollars.


February 10th, 2011
9:52 pm

Public school parents shouldn’t feel disenfranchised, but I don’t like mob rule either.

say what?

February 10th, 2011
9:55 pm

I thought we have concluded that parents are the problem, because they do not get involved, BUT our state leaders are willing to put 2 lives at risk- their student and a teacher they may not like. Can we have this rule for the legislature? Dr. Trotter, GA is the peanut capital for a reason.

Old Physics Teacher

February 10th, 2011
9:56 pm

Two-edged sword here.

All of my “Good Parents” know who the best teachers are. And I do mean “Good” parents. Not all my good parents have “A” children. I just gave two all “A” students grades in the 50’s on their first test. Both children parents work in the same office. I just walked in their office two days ago, and we had a good laugh about how the children were moaning about their grades. The owner of the office had told them that his daughter made lower than that on her first test with me (she’s in med school now). I have no problem with those types of parents rating teachers.

On the other hand an administrator at another school just blasted me as a poor teacher for her “little darling” that was a “very good student” to have received a bad grade from me. He received a bad grade for the same reason the rest of his class got bad grades – they didn’t study! She could be one of the parents who would vote to replace me, because she’s an “Involved Parent,” and everyone knows involved parents are good parents, right? Sarcasm was intended here. BTW, the “administrator was “promoted” out of the classroom because she was incompetent as a teacher.

Problem children come for all social strata: rich and poor. Some poor kids are awful discipline problems; some rich kids are too, but I’ve never had poor parents complain about grades like the upper strata do. Little Johnny may not have studied last night because he had to host his “party” for the “right” kids, and he couldn’t study for the test and didn’t know anything about the material on the test. But that was no reason to FLUNK him! Luckily my principal just listens to their complaints and commiserates with them, and then tells me to make sure the kids are held accountable for learning the standards. I don’t want whiny parents to have the power to intimidate teachers into giving their “little darlings” good grades. I think we used to call that “grade inflation, huh?

Basically if there are “checks and balances” with standing committees made of parents (voted on BY parents), teachers (voted on BY teachers), administrators (voted on BY teachers), and LOCAL business members (voted on BY business), I wouldn’t have any problems. If this many people thought I was a poor teacher, they’d probably be right… and I’d need to be gone!

Ed Johnson

February 10th, 2011
9:56 pm

Enter your comments here


February 10th, 2011
10:03 pm

I’m intrigued by this. You see, most of our failing schools are located smack-dab in the middle of the cess-pool of I-don’t-care-ville. If you could round up enough parents who gave a damn to vote for something like this, I don’t think the school would be in failing status. You see, it all starts with the values that are taught at home. Kids bring these values to school. If the family values learning, this will be valued in the school.


February 10th, 2011
10:14 pm

A child does not choose the family in which they are born. I don’t want to give up on a single child, because they have a far from ideal home.


February 10th, 2011
10:31 pm

I’m with Tony.

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Atlanta mom

February 10th, 2011
10:37 pm

Keep a very close watch on this Bill and be sure it doesn’t somehow dwarf into a “trigger” for all schools, not just failing schools. That’s what the attorney for the current Atlanta BOE majority advocates


February 10th, 2011
11:36 pm

Trotter “Georgia, the Goober State, always jumps in line to follow California”…have to agree!


February 10th, 2011
11:42 pm

Tony..”If the family values learning, this will be valued in the school”Ever heard of The Hidden Curriculum? Ever heard of an educator by the name of Paulo Freire ? Educate yourself as to how the children of low SES parents are the way they are!!!


February 11th, 2011
2:14 am

What does a parent do in a non-failing school when a teacher shrieks, screams and tosses hard-bound books at students’ heads? What to do when the teacher races out of the classroom in a rage and a student has to alert another teacher (with her own full classroom) that something’s amiss? And then that teacher screams at, and raises a fist toward, your once-abused child. What to do when a teacher tells your child, “You tell your mother if she has any complaints about me, she’ll bring them to me. And oh, by the way, I ‘lost’ your last two assignments and you have to come in at 7 tomorrow morning and re-do them.” What to do? It would be lovely to think that all educators are kind and decent and sane. Not so, any more than doctors, lawyers, accountants, mechanics or dog-catchers are kind, decent and sane. If parents have no real power, and currently we do not, how do we rid ourselves of the nut-jobs?

GA Teacher

February 11th, 2011
4:05 am

Every parent and legislator should have to teach in a low performing school for a year to see what teachers have to deal with every single day.

Winfield J. Abbe

February 11th, 2011
4:18 am

Most of these parents are not even paying for their kid’s public education. It costs about $11K per year to education a child. Even if the parents own a home, most of them do not own a multi million dollar one whch would pay this sum for one child, let alone 3 or 4. Remember education is about 60% of the tax bill. People in public housing pay nothing, zero, for the the education costs of their kids. You know who pays these costs? Other taxpayers who do not have children and businesses who cannot even vote. Take from the haves to pay the costs of the have nots. There is nothing very original about this idea since it evolved from our lawmakers watching and idolizing Robin Hood and Karl Marx, the father of Communism.
What happend to the idea of personal responsibility for ones actions that the Founders of America advocated? It got lost in the shuffle of ignorance didn’t it? If we continue to keep filling up the boat with idiots all of us will go down with it. Wake up Georgians. Instead of continuing to force others to pay the costs of irresponsible parents, stop those parents from having children. This is the only answer. Our only child graduated from high school over 30 years ago but my wife and I are still forced to pay almost $20K in property tax year in and year out while many other deadbeats pay zero. This is how to end this problem. Allow those who have already paid their way to opt out. The official won’t even listen to us either if we try to make suggestions for improving the schools.

Mother of a college student

February 11th, 2011
4:53 am

What person in his/her right mind would want to be a teacher? My hat is off to anyone who is willing to be a teacher, but I don’t want my child to have to deal with all the mess that teachers have to deal with in their classrooms. No wonder so many new teachers quit within their first five years of teaching.

Teaching is worse in FL

February 11th, 2011
5:26 am

If Georgia ALWAYS (poor choice of word) falls in line to follow California, what about gay marriage, medical marijuana, extreme environmental laws, etc.? I’d retract that statement. Nothing could be further from the truth.

All things in balance. While I welcome parent involvement, I’d hate to have a principal who makes every decision based on the fear that parents will fire them. Can you imagine how bad grade inflation will be? Every child will qualify for gifted, too.


February 11th, 2011
5:46 am

So they are making it “official”. parents can fire students along with getting them fired. I wonder what they would do with me– the original tough teacher where kids who make A’s sturggle to make B’s in my class because they are used to having their grasdes inflated? What would do with me when, in a school that did not make AYP, my kids DID make AYP?

Let them try to fire this 24-year veteran for being “too hard” or in a low performing school. See what kind of lawsuit they get for slandering me withut proof or cause. When my performance evaluation becomes public record, I WILL head to court if it takes every penny I have.


February 11th, 2011
5:56 am

I just hope that our politicians DO NOT BECOME WEAK KNEED on this initiative! Public education in Georgia has fastly become a ‘Jobs’ program! Hall is a great example!! Our educators have made their own bed, and now they are going to have to lie in it!!

I do wish the legislature would take a look at providing incentives for parents to pursue home schooling. Just compare home schooling results, not only of public school students, but even many private school students. It really makes you wonder why we are wasting so much money in the public school system!!

Finance management courses

February 11th, 2011
6:20 am

Execution of Parent Trigger Law in California will bring a drastic change in low -performing schools.

HS Math Teacher

February 11th, 2011
6:36 am

Georgia can’t be content to be a leader in the Southeast. Noooooo. We’ve got to be high steppers. Forget comparing ourselves with Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee (Florida doesn’t count). We have to compare ourselves to South Korea, Japan, China, Germany, and other countries that share none of the demographics we have.

SOME of our policymakers are PROGRESSIVE IDIOTS! Grandstanding morons. I’m not against realistic reform – I’m just against half-baked ideas and throwing darts with a blindfold on.


February 11th, 2011
7:13 am

Its amazing the very same politicians call California to liberal, but don’t mind adopting their laws. Oh wait–its their way to blame the teachers for their stupid education policies.


February 11th, 2011
7:28 am

The way it is supposed to work is that we voters elect the school boards, who hire the Superintendent, who promotes/hires the school administration, who hire the teachers.

If parents are unhappy with their schools, we have the right to go before the board to air our concerns. I guarantee you that if you got 50-60 parents flood the board meetings for a couple of months, you would get their attention. I’ve seen it happen several times. Of course, it was the Athletic Association who were wanting them to buy something….

If parents tried to enact wholesale change under this law, it would only serve to create chaos – and the students would be the ones who suffer the most.

Inman Park Boy

February 11th, 2011
8:00 am

Let’s just do away with publically financed education and let the parents run the whole thing. We’ll be the envy of the world!!!


February 11th, 2011
8:18 am

@Tony, I agree with everything you said. The reality is that the best schools are in neighborhoods where parents are actively involved. Most “failing schools” are in poorer neighborhoods. I work in a community where most of the parents only have a high school diploma. Actually, I would say that there is a large percentage that didn’t finish high school. They will only come to the school when their child claims a teacher said something inappropriate to them. Instead of instilling the importance of education in their children, they tell them to fight if anyone ever lays a finger on them. So, we break up fights all day long. When parent conferences are scheduled, many parents don’t show up. We are unable to have regular PTA meetings because parents won’t volunteer to be on the board.

Now given all that I’ve stated, we expect parents to choose who teaches their kid? This is the very reason so many teachers are planning their next career move. Most want out of education. Teachers are no longer respected as professionals. There is no parent accountability. If parents want better schools, they need to become better parents.

☺☻ Black & white smiley faces

February 11th, 2011
8:35 am

I agree with Tony & RJ.

Their statements make way too much sense given what I heard from a step-sister-in-law who’s a young, nice teacher, and is already planning on either leaving her 1rst school or the profession.

I guess the “moral of the story” is:
1. Teaching is a good ideal, not a good reality
2. You’ll probably end up wanting to leave, unless you happen to be teaching in the right area and the right school

Logical conclusion:
=> Go to college for something other than teaching. Save yourself the grief!

What a shame that statement may very well be true! What’s happened to our country?? :(

Dr. John Trotter

February 11th, 2011
8:43 am

The Motivation To Learn, The Lack of Discipline, The 800 Pound Gorilla In The Parlor, & Willingly Naïve Legislators!

By John R. Alston Trotter, EdD, JD

If students perceive that they come from a non-reading culture, then these students will not value reading. If there are not books in the house (just National Enquirer!) and the students do not see their parents reading, then the students will not value reading. It is very simple. The motivation to learn is a cultural phenomenon. I always want to credit one of my old UGA professors, Dr. Eugene Boyce, with this concept. Dr. Boyce studied on location how education worked in Nigeria, Kenya, China, and the Soviet Union, besides running the lab school at Florida State University. I always thought that he was brilliant and never got the credit due to him. If I “borrow” an idea, I always like to give credit to the source. From his observations through the years in several parts of the world, he concluded that motivation was the key to learning that this motivation was culturally conditioned.

The motivation to learn is a social process or a cultural phenomenon. And the legislature wants to give these non-reading, irresponsible, and, in many cases, irate parents the control over the professional educators? Good grief. When desperation sets in, there’s no telling what they will do. It would be nice if they starting off by mentioning the unmentionable…a lack of discipline in the schools. Discipline (or the lack thereof) is the 800 pound gorilla in the dainty parlor that no one (and I mean NO ONE) is willing to talk about. All of the moving of furniture in the parlor will not remove the fact that an 800 pound gorilla is still moving around in the parlor, knocking over marble-top tables and French chairs. This is how ridiculous Fran Millar and the other Georgia legislators look; they are re-arranging the French chairs in the parlor and ignoring the 800 pound, smelling, and growling gorilla in the parlor. Ha! © MACE, February 11, 2011


February 11th, 2011
8:53 am

Schools are only as good as the kids being sent.

Warrior Woman

February 11th, 2011
8:57 am

@Heifer – That’s when you complain, in writing, to the administrator, the superintendent, and the school board and follow up with a letter from your attorney is there is no response. You are SO RIGHT that there are horrible teachers out there. I know of a school where a band director threw a music stand at a student and told the student that if he reported the incident, he would fail the class. This happened at a high-performing school in an upper-middle class neighborhood.

Warrior Woman

February 11th, 2011
8:59 am

I find it a bit funny, and very inconsistent, that the same people who usually rail against the lack of parental involvement are opposed to parent trigger laws – the ultimate parent involvement.


February 11th, 2011
9:05 am

I could see parents siding together in hysteria—similar to the Salem witch trials. No rationale, just get ride of them (school staff). Not a good idea at all. We don’t to follow Calif. “just because” we can.

Dr. John Trotter

February 11th, 2011
9:22 am

What Makes Good Schools?

By John R. Alston Trotter, EdD, JD

We always laughingly asked…You know what makes good schools? Answer: Good students. I remember telling the teachers at Slater Elementary School in Atlanta (located next to the old Carver Homes) in the late 1980s that I knew exactly how to raise the test scores at Slater Elementary. They would ask, “How?” I answered that the Slater Elementary School building needed to be moved to West Westley in the Buckhead area. Keep the same building, the same teachers, the same custodial staff, the same secretaries, the same principal, the same media specialist, the same supplies, and the same balls and jump ropes. Just move the school building to another location. Oh, I forgot…the only thing that you change is the student enrollment. We simply allow the students who live in the area to matriculate to the “new” Slater.

I remember last year when Arne Duncan was talking about changing the principals and the teachers at the chronically low-performing schools. Maureen Downey wrote an article on this and quoted me asking Mr. Duncan what he was going to do with the students. He wanted to change everyone except the ones who really mattered…the students. Many educrats and educators were incredulous that I would make such a statement. This story by Ms. Downey went viral on the internet. As long as you keep the same students, not much is going to change…at least the way that educrats try to “improve” the schools.

What makes good schools are indeed good students. And, if you are addressing a low-performing school, it is almost invariably because the school is fed by low-performing students, not low-performing teachers. The best thing that you can do for these low-performing students is (1) establish discipline within the school environment and (2) free up these teachers to be creative so that they can figure out a way to motivate these “at risk” students. Putting the teachers in straight-jackets, making them teach prescripted curricula in a specific manner under oppressive top-down, heavy-handed snoopervision will simply suffocate, frustrate, and eventually eliminate the teachers, and these “at risk” children will continue to be disengaged from the learning process.

The truth hurts, doesn’t it? I will borrow a question that St. Paul used with his Galatian brothers and sisters: Am I therefore your enemy because I tell you the truth? © MACE, February 11, 2011.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

February 11th, 2011
9:35 am

In Education, not only is “the perfect” the enemy of “the good,” but also “the innovative” may be the enemy of “the good.”

Are we about doing things because they’re new or about doing things because they work?

To wit, does a consensus of independent research indicate that “parent trigger” laws improve student learning in under-performing schools?

If so, why don’t we apply the “parent trigger” concept on a pilot basis in a small, but representative, sample of our state’s under-performing schools? Then have an independent evaluation of its efficacy in improving student learning and behavior in our state. Of course, the results of the evaluation should be communicated to The Public.

By the way, at the celebration of the centennial of the college of Education at a USG institution, I heard former SC SSOS Inez Tenenbaum challenge the college to establish a center for under-performing schools. The silence was deafening.

Gwinnett Parent

February 11th, 2011
9:51 am

Most of the problems are above the teacher/student/parent level. When my child’s school sends her out selling junk to buy school equipment and we have a 2 billion dollar county budget, something is wrong. Nevermind that the playground looks like war torn Bosnia. Making our children pad the school budget with fundraising was also an event during fatter times. Public schools are full of corruption. We need to keep those in the trenches and cut our six figure job placement programs for the highly connected. Can we fire the curriculum specialists, graduation coaches, and the overpaid morons that brought us new math? I graduated from one of the most highly regarded private schools in the country after attending a low performing school for 11 years. The transition was like gettting on 285 during rush hour with a learner’s permit. Civics class in the public school…40 students and open book multiple choice tests. Civics class at the private school..8 students, motivated teacher, debates, and term papers. The large difference…Teachers were allowed to teach. Parental involvement was minimal and independence was encouraged. Parents were too busy trying to pay the tuition, which is now $20k. Discipline and parental involement was not necessary, because expulsion meant loss of tuition paid. All of my classmates went to college and most graduated from top tier schools. Very few of my public school friends went to college. The one’s that attended college had to take remedial courses. Why are private schools better? They let the teachers teach, weed out the weak, and there’s not several layers of misplaced funds.

I will agree that there are some true “nut jobs”. I rented one of my properties to one. She was scary(chopped several trees on a whim plus other stuff). Thank goodness she teaches at another school. I know that one day she will be on the news and the thought that she is around children is disturbing. Are public school teachers given a psychological evaluation? We should look closely at the psychological state of our educators, but leave the good ones alone to teach.


February 11th, 2011
10:36 am

I completely agree with psychological evals. for teachers. However, I believe that any profession ( day care workers, psychologist themselves or any business licensed by the state to work with children) that is in contact with, care for, or are licensed to make life altering decisions for children should be subject to psychological evals. Any person can go to college and get a teaching certificate. I believe all person’s applying to college for a teaching degree, or any degree that involves decision making for children should be screened with psych. evals. before admittance.
I have known some wonderful stable teachers, but have also known some completely whacked teachers also.


February 11th, 2011
10:47 am

I read this column daily and every day I am thankful that my children are no longer in public schools. I am equally thankful that I no longer teach in public schools. My youngest graduated in 2004 and I left teaching two years ago during a school board fit of downsizing. We had our share of small problems, but my children managed to get great educations (yes, here in Atlanta!) and go on to scholarship-funded college degrees. Many of their teachers are still teaching. It isn’t the teachers (for the most part).

I am sorry for the current state of education. It is avoidable, but not by any of the techniques currently in place. My biggest fear now is that one of our current grads will be administering my meds in the nursing home. At least I won’t linger…


February 11th, 2011
10:50 am

It wont work in APS, Dekalb or Clayton as any teacher who is singled out for a well deserved firing etc will being screaming they are victim of racism. Then the concerned black clergy idiots will hold a news conference proclaiming said victims innnocence and if ya dont believe them then you can always ask the victims mama.

Complete waste of time.


February 11th, 2011
10:52 am

@ say what- Can you tell me the reason why Georgia is called the peanut capitol?


February 11th, 2011
10:56 am

Perhaps the firing of some of the parents may be a better idea.

Archie@Arkham Asylum

February 11th, 2011
11:15 am

Hey, Dr NO! D’youse suppose we could get the GA legislature to come up with a law requiring people in GA to take a written test and get a license before being allowed to reproduce? Just thinkin’!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Russ Moore, Trey Burley. Trey Burley said: Parent trigger laws: Parents can fire school staffs [...]


February 11th, 2011
12:06 pm

“take a written test and get a license before being allowed to reproduce?”

Well with all the cheating thats been occuring of late that probably wouldnt be very efficient. Now if we could get to work on legislating retro-abortions we would have something.

Bruno Behrend

February 11th, 2011
12:31 pm

If you want to find out about all things Parent Trigger, go to

It is high time that parents were given real political power to flip under-performing schools. The idea that showing up at board meetings or sitting on some pointless committee equates to real power is just plain silly. Giving the parents the ability to convert Bureaucracy-Based District schools to Neighborhood infrastructure is an idea whose time has come.

The GA law, while good, is weaker than it should be. Once triggered, the parents will should be followed.


February 11th, 2011
1:32 pm

“It wont work in APS, Dekalb or Clayton as any teacher who is singled out for a well deserved firing etc will being screaming they are victim of racism.

Springdale Park Elementary Parent

February 11th, 2011
1:33 pm

@ Trotter re: “irate” parents: you’re damn right we’re irate, and you know why. Public schools are awful. And we’re no longer willing to push with all our might only to move the needle from “really awful” to “slightly less terrible.” No, we’re moving toward change on an Egyptian scale, and that means upending the current system and starting over. It means more charters, more vouchers and more competitive pressure on the remaining public schools to get better or get out.

Many of us have decided that ONLY the threat of extinction (brought to bear by introducing stronger competitors into the education arena) will force dismal public schools to get better faster. Everything else has failed; let’s invoke Darwin.

But if a law suddenly gave me the power to fire school staffs, my first move would be to figure out who the great teachers are and let them know that they’re gonna be brought back, however we have to do it.

Parents understand that great teachers are a scarce commodity and when we get more leverage to change our schools I promise you your professional existence, as a talented, committed teacher, will get much better. Join us! Walk like an Egyptian!