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The Leaflet - The Parent Trigger Two Years Later

December 15, 2011

In August of 2010 The Heartland Institute began getting involved in a revolutionary education reform issue known as the Parent Trigger.

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In August of 2010 The Heartland Institute began getting involved in a revolutionary education reform issue known as the Parent Trigger. Heartland published the first policy report on the Parent Trigger idea and helped promote the idea across the country. The idea, which first passed into law by the California Legislature in January 2010, was simple–give parents the power to transform their failing school by signing a petition.

The Heartland Institute has produced seminal research on the Parent Trigger, effectively marketed it to the media and allies, and introduced it to elected officials in all 50 states. In 2011 at least 15 states introduced parent trigger legislation with some form of the concept passing in Indiana, Ohio, and Texas.

In early 2012, Heartland will be introducing its third policy study on the issue, this one looking at model legislation. If you would like to know more about why the Parent Trigger is one of the best ways to empower parents, localize control, and expand access to quality education for everyone please contact me at or 312/377-4000.


John Nothdurft
Director - Government Relations


 Lead Story

Research & Commentary: The Parent Trigger, One Year Later

The Parent Trigger allows parents at a school deemed failing, often by No Child Left Behind standards, to petition that one of several turnaround measures take place. If a majority of parents sign the petitions, the school district must take action. Turnaround measures vary by state, but they typically include options also specified under NCLB, such as school closure, converting to a charter school, or replacing a significant portion of school staff.

Critics argue the law places too much power in the hands of inexpert parents and could cause great disruption. They say school changes should be made by experts in consultation with teachers and administrators.

Trigger proponents argue schools eligible for the option have been mismanaged for years by the experts Trigger critics trust, and their persistently poor records demand significant and quick action to prevent more students from remaining trapped in the failing system. They also note parents are the only individuals with only their child’s interests at heart, which makes them the most appropriate and ardent child advocates.

Giving parents power over their child’s education, Trigger advocates argue, helps balance the skewed playing field that currently favors special interests. This actually helps prevent parents from having to pull the Trigger because, with it as an option, they have the power to negotiate less-drastic changes.

You can read more about the Parent Trigger at


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John Nothdurft joined the staff of The Heartland Institute in May 2008 as Heartland's legislative specialist on budget and tax policy. He was named government relations director in November 2010.