Parent Trigger Laws in the States

Josh Cunningham 10/15/2013


The concept of a parent trigger policy gained national attention in January 2010 when California passed the nation's first parent trigger law. The basic concept of the policy is that parents have the ability to intervene in their child's school if it is performing poorly. With enough signatures from parents, any number of actions can be taken against the low performing school. These can include converting it to a charter school, replacing some of the school's administration and faculty, and closing the school altogether. Some have also proposed offering affected students private school vouchers.

Advocates argue that parents should have a more active role in how their child's school is managed. They also claim that the traditional procedures for turning around low performing schools are too slow and heavily influenced by political interests, not necessarily the students' interests. Supporters hope that the existence of a parent trigger law will encourage schools and districts to better communicate existing school improvements to parents in hopes of avoiding a parent petition.

Opponents claim that there are mechanisms already in place to intervene in low performing schools. They point to school accountability committees and local school boards as the existing means for parents to be involved in the operation of their child's school. They also worry that parents may not be aware of the changes low performing schools have already made such as hiring new administration and teachers. Some raise concerns that corporate charter school operators are using these laws to expand their business, an argument that some states look to address by prohibiting charter school operators from funding petition campaigns.

NCSL Report: Empowering Parents

NCSL's new report, Comprehensive School Choice Policy: A Guide for Legislators, discusses how states have empowered parents to play a larger role in the operation of their kids' school. This includes, among other policies, a detalied look at policy options legislators can keep in mind when considering parent trigger legislation.

What the States Have Done

As of March 2013, at least 25 states have considered parent trigger legislation and six of them have enacted some version of the law. The six states are: California, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio (pilot program in the Columbus School District) and Texas. While each state has taken a different approach, there are some common provisions that most states have included in their laws. Most of the states include a process by which parents of children attending a low-performing school can sign a petition that initiates an intervention in the operation of the school. Each state law also lists what intervention options are available to parents. Most of the states describe the role of the state education agency in determining what happens to the school, and some states include an appeal process for the school district overseeing the targeted school.

A comparison of these seven states that have passed parent trigger laws is below:

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Comparing Parent Trigger Laws


Enacted Bill

Major Provisions

Qualifying Schools

% Signature Required

Time to Collect Signatures

Intervention Options

Local Public Hearings

Local School Board Options

State Options



SBX4 (2010)

Must have failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for 3 consecutive years and been in 'corrective action' status under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for at least one year

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

Not specified

Any intervention listed under "corrective action" in NCLB. This can include:

- replacing all staff and faculty relevant to low-performance
- Convert to a charter school (parents can choose the charter management organization in the petition)
- Close the school

Not required

Can choose an alternative intervention if it finds that the parents' choice cannot be implemented. Must notify the State Superintendant that intervention chosen has substantial promise to improve AYP. 

District must follow the standard review process for the charter management organization (CMO) selected by parents

None specified

No more than 75 schools can be subject to a parent petition.

Parents must disclose any financial or organizing support received.

Parents cannot be paid by proponents of a charter conversion.

If signature collectors are being paid in any way, it must be disclosed to the state


HB 1002 (2011)

Low-performing for 2 consecutive years, but not already scheduled for closure. The district school board must vote in favor of the conversion


90 Days

 - Convert to charter school

Not required

Must approve conversion of school even with a parent petition

None specified


Louisiana HB 976 (2012) A school that has received a "D" or "F" from the state school grading system for 3 or more consecutive years Majority of parents at the school Not Specified  - The school is transferred into the special state-operated Recovery School District (RSD). Low-income students attending an RSD school are eligble for a state-funded private school voucher. Not Required None specified The State Board of Education must validate the petition and approve the request from parents The bill specifies that school and district resources may not be used to oppose or support any petition effort by parents


SB 2293 (2010)

Low-performing for 3 consecutive years


Not Specified

 - Convert to charter school


None, must implement whatever the state's final decision is

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

Attached to the petition must be a detailed conversion plan


HB 153 (2011)

Schools that are ranked in the lowest 5% in performance statewide for 3 or more consecutive years and must be located in the Columbus School District

 - Majority of parents at the school
 - Majority of all parents whose children will likely matriculate into the school

Not Specified

 - Convert to a charter school
 - Replace at least 70% of the school's personnel related to its poor performance
 - Turn operation of the school over to the state department
 - Contract with either another school district, or with a non-profit or for-profit charter management organization (CMO)
 - Impose any other major restructuring


Can appeal to the state Dept. of Education if they can prove the reform cannot be implemented. Then must choose one of the other possible reforms. State Board of Ed must approve the final plan

Can refuse to takeover the school if that is what option the parents have chosen. Can grant the district an appeal but must approve an alternative reform

Pilot program must be reviewed annually by the department and recommendations on continuation or expansion of the program must be submitted to the legislature


SB 738 (2011)

Low-performing for at least 5 years, including 3 consecutive years of low achievement after being reconstituted for prior low performance. 


Not Specified

 - Convert to a charter school
- Replace administrative management
- Close school

Not required

Recommend to Education Commissioner a different action than that specified by the parents' petition

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


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