Oklahoma’s Parent Trigger Law Moves out of Senate Committee

Oklahoma's own version of the parent trigger law – the Parent Empowerment Act – has cleared its first legislative hurdle. The Normal Transcript reports that the bill, which has supporters on both sides of the aisle, has been cleared for debate on the floor by the Senate Education Committee.

The committee members voted 7-3 to approve it earlier this week.

The measure, which was drafted jointly by Senator David Holt – a Republican from Oklahoma City – and Tulsa Democrat Senator Jabar Shumate will allow parents in the state to bring about change in chronically underperforming schools. Among the remedies parents will have access to will be converting the school to a charter or removing and replacing the school administrators.

The bill sets a fairly low threshold for action. Only a majority of the parents need to sign off on the change before the provisions of the measure are put into effect. However, parents outside of Tulsa and Oklahoma will not be able to resort to administrator termination according to the text of the proposed law.

An under-performing school is defined as a school that has received a "D" or an "F" for at least the last two years under Oklahoma's new grading system, or a "D" or an "F" for two of the last three years, as long as the most recent grade was a "D" or an "F". If the parents choose the charter school option, the charter school will first serve all students in the existing attendance boundaries of the school.

The parent trigger laws have been in the news over the past year after parent groups succeeded in mandating the overhaul of a school for the first time in California. Although such laws are on the books in 7 states, with a number of others set to consider them in the coming year, only two parent groups so far has been able to make use of them to transition a traditional public school into a charter.

Notably, late last year, parents in Adelanto, California defeated the efforts of the local school board to scuttle the transition of the Desert Trails Elementary School, a perpetually failing public school, to a charter.

The parents' fight to take over Desert Trails Elementary School has been a media sensation. It was looked upon as the first test case of the parent trigger law, and served as a demonstration to parents in other parts of California who were contemplating taking the same steps. Now the fight is over, and starting this August the running of Desert Trails will be handled by LaVerne Elementary Preparatory Academy, a long-time charter operator.

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