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Top Calif. Congressman Urges Support for 'Parent Trigger' Laws

In California, attempts to use a "parent trigger" law to remake schools into charters have prompted major battles in a pair of school districts. In Florida, legislation to create a trigger law is also the source of controversy, particularly among those who fear California-style battles will erupt across the state.

But parent-trigger laws received a plug today from a big name: U.S. Rep. George Miller, of California, the ranking Democrat on his chamber's education committee.

Here's what Miller said:

"We can no longer just pay lip-service to parental involvement in schools. Instead parents must be empowered to stand up and say the status quo isn't good enough for their children. When school districts and communities have failed to improve their schools, it is unconscionable to ask parents and their children to wait. They have waited long enough. Parent trigger gives parents not just a voice, but a say in and involvement in the quality of their child's school. I believe they have the right to be heard."

Generally speaking, trigger laws allow for the conversion of traditional public schools to charters, or for other types of school restructuring, through a majority vote of parents.

Miller's position is not new; he had previously voiced support for the trigger concept. The Florida parent-trigger proposal has drawn the majority of its backing so far from Republicans, though Miller's statement is a reminder that some Democrats are on board, too.

Critics of parent-trigger laws say they divide communities, pitting parents against parents. They also predict that they will result in charter school operators (including for-profit companies) swooping into communities with bold promises for turning around schools that are likely to prompt even more fractures in schools and communities.

For background, see my recent story on the debate over parent-trigger laws playing out in Florida and other states. Miller's statement comes out on the same day the Washington Post published a story examining the rifts that have emerged in Adelanto, Calif., over a parent-trigger proposal to convert a elementary school there to a charter.

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