Where did the parent trigger concept come from?

Published July 5, 2012

Education activists who don't like the "parent empowerment" or "parent trigger" legislation that narrowly died in the Florida Senate this past spring have taken to labeling it an idea of the right being pushed in several states by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

Think again, says former California Democratic lawmaker Gloria Romero.

In a post for Redefined, the blog operated by Florida's corporate tax credit scholarship program, Romero takes full credit for the idea and disdains the critics who are demonizing it as a conservative conspiracy. She writes:

"ALEC happens to like the law and encourages other states to write similar laws. That is true. But that does not mean it developed either the idea or the law. That's preposterous! Quite frankly, it's also a bit sexist and ethnocentric to assert my work actually came from someone else – that somehow the Latina senator from East Los Angeles couldn't think on my own, or figure out how to write a bill and turn it into law. ...

"Believe me, I have forcefully communicated my dissatisfaction with the sloppiness of the organizing efforts, and how this has led to some blaming of the law itself. But what you see as a mob, I see as empowerment – democracy in action and right from the First Amendment. The right for Americans to petition their government – particularly when their government is refusing to stand up and do the right thing for the people they represent – is at the heart of parent trigger."

This is potentially important for Florida, as the legislation promises to return along with the debate. It's quite possible that Democrats might come to like the idea, in some revised format, much as some slowly came around to like the voucher program that Step Up For Students promotes. As parents join the battle over the use of testing data, will they also seek more voice in the way their schools are run? Can the parent trigger work if the conditions are right?

Stay tuned to this debate.