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Parent Trigger Laws by State

The idea of a parent trigger policy gained significant attention in 2010 when California passed the first parent trigger law. Across the country, parents are seeking the power to intervene in their children's schools if they are performing poorly. Following a description of parent trigger laws, a chart is provided that contains state-specific parent trigger policies. For more information, visit FindLaw's School Funding section.

What Is a Parent Trigger Law?

A parent trigger law allows for parents to take action against low-performing schools. The actions parents can take include converting the low-performing school into a charter school, replacing some of the school's administration and faculty, or closing the school. Some parent trigger advocates have also proposed offering students in poorly performing schools private school vouchers.

For example, California's Parent Empowerment Act creates a process which allows parents of students in low-performing schools to sign a petition to implement an intervention model--replacing all or some of the staff, turning the school over to a charter operator, transforming it through new programs, or closing the school.

State Action and Use of Parent Trigger

Many states have considered parent trigger legislation and seven states, including California, have enacted a version of the law. In addition to California, the states are Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, and Texas. While each state has used a different approach, there are common provisions found in the laws. Most of these states include a process by which parents of children attending low-performing schools can sign a petition that initiates an intervention in the operation of the school. Each state provides certain intervention options that are available to parents.

State parent trigger laws are summarized below:

Alabama n/a
Alaska n/a
Arizona n/a
Arkansas n/a
California

Qualifying Schools: Schools must have failed to meet adequate yearly progress for three consecutive years and been in "corrective action" status for at least one year.

Signatures Required: Any combination of at least half the parents either with children enrolled in the targeted school or with children in lower grades who matriculate into the school.

Intervention Options: Replacing all staff and faculty relevant to low performance; convert to a charter school; close the school.

Public Hearings: Not required.

Local School Board Options: Can choose an alternative intervention if it finds the parents' choice can't be implemented. Must notify State Superintendent that intervention chosen has substantial promise to improve yearly progress.

State Options: None specified.

Other Requirements: No more than 75 schools can be subject to a parent petition; parents must disclose financial or organizing support; parents can't be paid by proponents of a charter conversion.

Colorado n/a
Connecticut

Qualifying Schools: Schools identified by the state or district as in need of an improvement plan or identified as low-achieving.

Signatures Required: No petition allowed.

Intervention Options: Reconstitute the school based on any of the federal models (turnaround, restart, transformation, etc.); turn into CommPACT school (CT turnaround program); convert to innovation school.

Public Hearings: Required.

Local School Board Options: Must implement the state's decision.

State Options: Either approve intervention plan or leave the school unchanged.

Other Requirements: School Governance Councils created on which parents hold a majority.

Delaware n/a
District of Columbia n/a
Florida n/a
Georgia n/a
Hawaii n/a
Idaho n/a
Illinois n/a
Indiana

Qualifying Schools: Low-performing for two consecutive years, but not already scheduled for closure; district school board must vote in favor of the conversion.

Signatures Required: 51%.

Intervention Options: Convert to charter school.

Public Hearings: Not required.

Local School Board Options: Must approve conversion of school even with parent petition.

State Options: None specified.

Other Requirements: None specified.

Iowa n/a
Kansas n/a
Kentucky n/a
Louisiana

Qualifying Schools: Low-performing for five consecutive years. Signatures Required: Majority.

Intervention Options: Transfer of certain schools from Recovery School District back to local school system.

Local School Board Options: Must approve conversion of school.

State Options: State Board must approve conversion of school.

Other Requirements: None specified.

Maine n/a
Maryland n/a
Massachusetts n/a
Michigan n/a
Minnesota n/a
Mississippi

Qualifying Schools: Low-performing for three consecutive years.

Signatures Required: Majority.

Intervention Options: Convert to charter school.

Public Hearings: Required.

School Board Options: Must implement the state's decision.

State Options: State Board of Education must approve the conversion plan attached to parent petition.

Other Requirements: Detailed conversion plan must be attached to petition.

Missouri n/a
Montana n/a
Nebraska n/a
Nevada n/a
New Hampshire n/a
New Jersey n/a
New Mexico n/a
New York n/a
North Carolina n/a
North Dakota n/a
Ohio

Qualifying Schools: Low-performing for three consecutive years.

Signatures Required: Majority.

Intervention Options: Convert to charter school; replace at least 70% of school's personnel related to its poor performance; turn operation over to the state department; contract with another school district, non-profit, or for-profit education management organization; impose any other major restructuring.

Public Hearings: Not clear.

School Board Options: Appeal to state department of education if it can be proved the reform can't be implemented; then choose one of the other possible reforms; state board must approve final plan.

State Options: Can refuse to take over school; can grant district an appeal but must approve an alternative reform.

Other Requirements: Pilot program must be reviewed annually and recommendations on continuation or expansion of the program must be submitted to the legislature.

Oklahoma n/a
Oregon n/a
Pennsylvania n/a
Rhode Island n/a
South Carolina n/a
South Dakota n/a
Tennessee n/a
Texas

Qualifying Schools: Low-performing for three consecutive years.

Signatures Required: Majority.

Intervention Options: Convert to charter school; replace administrative management; close school.

Public Hearings: Not required.

School Board Options: Recommend to Education Commissioner a different action than that specified by parents' petition.

State Options: State Commissioner of Education must order the action requested by parents; if district requests a different intervention, the Commissioner can choose to accept the district's request.

Other Requirements: None specified.

Utah n/a
Vermont n/a
Virginia n/a
Washington n/a
West Virginia n/a
Wisconsin n/a
Wyoming n/a

Considerations

Parent trigger laws remain very controversial. While several states have enacted parent trigger laws, other states have seen legislation regularly fail. Keep track of any parent trigger legislation in your state so you'll be aware of any policy changes, and contact an education law attorney if you have additional questions.

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