The “Parent Trigger” is a political device created by venture capitalists and return-on-investment philanthropists looking for an effective way to rapidly expand for-profit charter school chains. Parent Trigger or “Parent Empowerment,” depends on professional lobbyists and outside forces to persuade 51% of the parents in a struggling school to “pull the trigger,” and transfer a valuable public asset from the jurisdiction of a duly elected school board into the hands of a proprietary corporation.

Parents are led to believe that by pulling the trigger and demonstrating “parent empowerment,” they are providing something better for their children. However, once the deed is done, parents have very little say over how their publicly-funded neighborhood school will be run. In California, the process of gathering enough parent signatures to “pull the trigger” has led to fraud and deception. Parents were pitted against teachers, principals and one another, leading to parking lot fights, bitterness, broken trust and lingering divisiveness. Nearly every California parent trigger attempt has wound up in court.

The trick is clear. Ironically, the only true act of parent power is pulling the trigger. After the asset transfer, the parents lose all control. Private corporations do not have to disclose profits, methods or budget. Charter chains play by different rules. All fiscal information is considered proprietary and private. The Parent Trigger uses mothers and fathers to vote against their own interests to justify a corporate raid. Charter school developers have zero capital outlay, zero investment and 100% access to carving a profit from taxpayer dollars previously meant to educate each child. Who profits?

What happens after the trigger is pulled?

Action: 51 % of the parents in a “struggling” traditional public school* sign a petition, the “Parent Trigger” and determine the fate of the school for everyone else’s child.Possible results:

  • Firing the principal
  • Bringing in an entirely new staff
  • Closing the school
  • Handing over the school to a for-profit charter school operator/developer**

* Florida defines this to be a D or F school. In 2012 alone, the Florida Board of Education moved cut scores and manipulated data to ensure that many C schools will predictably drop to Ds, which are then considered “struggling” and open to privatization. There is talk of widening the criteria for what is considered struggling to specific standardized test scores.
** In the few California cases where the Parent Trigger was carried out, the ONLY option that is EVER chosen is handing the school over to a pre-determined for profit charter operator.

Parent Trigger is ALEC

Parent Trigger is an American Legislative Exchange Council model bill (ALEC). This is the same organization that developed and promoted the notorious “Stand Your Ground Law” being used to justify the 2011 killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. It’s not surprising that Florida has strong ties to ALEC and is among the first over 25 states to adopt “Stand Your Ground.”

Critics say that ALEC subverts the democratic process by bringing politicians and corporations together in secret to craft laws and strike deals that serve the profit motives of ALEC members. ALEC and the State Policy Institutes work to orchestrate simultaneous multiple-state adoption of legislation every year. When a dozen states start pushing similar reform legislation, the public and the media are deceived into believing there is public demand for a particular policy like parent trigger or stand your ground.

The reality is that the public is not demanding parent trigger or any of the other so-called “reforms.” In fact, the opposite is true. Florida has suffered 14 long years of expensive, unproven reforms while witnessing catastrophic funding cuts that hurt children and harm schools.

“Parent Trigger” was adopted by the ALEC Education Task Force at the 2010 States & Nation Policy Summit, December 3, 2010. “Parent Trigger” was approved by the ALEC Board of Directors, January 7, 2011 as official ALEC Model Legislation.

Parent Trigger History

The Parent Revolution, established in 2009 with $1 million in Walton seed money, charged political player Ben Austin, with selling Parent Trigger as a permanent part of the public education process across the nation. Parent Revolution markets itself as a grass roots parent “union,” yet it has access to millions of venture philanthropy dollars. They spend this money on professional lobbyists who use influence to encourage statehouse politicians of the benefits of this reform. For example, Parent Revolution staffers and lobbyists arrived in Florida in 2010 to promote Parent Trigger by selling themselves as authentic parents to politicians, providing talking points and pushing the passage of the bill for the 2012 session.

Parent Revolution is funded by the usual handful of wealthy foundations who spend billions experimenting with social engineering under the cloak of “education reform:”

Parent Revolution Funders

  • Walton Family Foundation
  • Gates Foundation
  • Broad Foundation
  • California Education Policy Fund Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors
  • Rogers Family Foundation
  • Emerson Collective Education Fund
  • The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation
  • Silicon Valley Community Foundation
  • Laura and John Arnold Foundation
  • East Bay Community Foundation
  • Wasserman Foundation


Excerpt from – Trigger Laws: Does Signing a Petition Give Parents a Voice?

And there is no indication that these laws increase parental voice in their children’s education. “You get one shot and that’s it, because once that charter is formed, that charter dictates how it will operate,” John Rogers, associate professor of urban schooling at UCLA, told NBC’s Education Nation. “[Parents] have fewer rights in the context of a charter than they would at a public school.”

….Patrick Range McDonald of the LA Weekly claimed it was the product of “minority parents and fierce reformers, who seemed to materialize from thin air.”

Not quite. Although some grassroots parents undoubtedly did support the bill, it was the product of powerful political figures, backed by the wealthy foundations that shape much of the country’s debate over education reform. SBX54 was written by the Los Angeles Parents Union (LAPU), started in 2006 by the Green Dot charter school company. The LAPU was headed by political operative Ben Austin, who then started another organization, Parent Revolution, to promote and implement the parent trigger law. At its birth, Parent Revolution had a $1 million budget supplied by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wasserman Foundation, the Eli Broad Foundation, the Hewlett-Packard Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation.

Political Deception and Parent Trigger

The effort to convince parents that they need a “Parent Trigger” requires high levels of persuasion. The arguments, political methods and motivations required to launch a campaign are clearly detailed in the Parent Trigger Handbook. Careful attention is paid by proponents of Parent Trigger to blur political lines and to declare support from Democrats for this conservative free-market effort. For example, Parent Revolution Executive Director Ben Austin and National Advocacy Director Mike Trujillo worked in the Clinton and Obama campaigns. During public testimony in Florida, both men enthusiastically discussed their credentials with the Democratic Party during public testimony in committee hearings.

In addition, national Parent Trigger proponents often make it known to the press and public that they are registered Democrats. Michelle Rhee, leader of the well-funded Students First lobbying group and her husband Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson are Democrats who support the privatization of public schools. Johnson is the Education Reform Chair for the US Mayors organization. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat and chairman of US Mayors, released a controversial statement in July of 2012 that Mayors endorse parent trigger. With the exception of NYC Mayor Bloomberg, mayors play no role deciding public education policy, legislation or funding. What do the Mayors hope to gain from their politically motivated “endorsement?”

In April, 2012 after lobbying for nearly 18 months in Florida for passage of Parent Trigger legislation, the lead spokesperson for Parent Revolution, Linda Serrato, announced that she was leaving to work on the Obama re-election campaign.

Excerpt from – Trigger Laws: Does Signing a Petition Give Parents a Voice?

As trigger laws are introduced in state after state, California’s experience is being watched closely. When the trigger law there was up for a vote, Democrats, among them Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (a former field rep for United Teachers Los Angeles), spoke for the bill, although the votes to pass it came mostly from Republicans. Teachers’ unions lobbied against it, while a chorus of mainstream media hailed it. Patrick Range McDonald of the LA Weekly claimed it was the product of “minority parents and fierce reformers, who seemed to materialize from thin air.”

Austin, recently replaced by California Gov. Jerry Brown on the State Board of Education, is Parent evolution’s executive director. He was an aide in the Clinton White House, and deputy to Los Angeles’ former Republican Mayor Richard Riordan. Parent Revolution’s organizing director is Pat DeTemple, a lawyer who worked for Service Employees Local 1199 on the East Coast, for the United Farm Workers before that, and was an organizer for President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.

California Parent Trigger: Fractured Legacy

Parent Trigger attempt # 1: McKinley Elementary School, Compton

2010 Parent Revolution targets McKinley Elementary School, one of the lowest performers in the Compton Unified School District, for the first “Parent Trigger” experiment

2010 Problems with the petition process:

  • 4 legal options not presented in petition
  • Parent Revolution wrote petition before contacting or establishing parent leaders
  • Paragraphs of legal language followed the title “RESTART MODEL”
  • Stated school was to be reopened under Celerity Educational Group, a Charter Management Organization (CMO)
  • The only option appeared to be charter conversion
  • Parents felt that they were tricked and began with-drawing their signatures and support
  • Parents, who expected an open process, became angry and felt excluded
  • No public meetings were organized by Parent Revolution hampering meaningful public discourse
  • Meetings had more Parent Revolution staff than parents and there was an ongoing threat that McKinley would close

2010 Problems with validating signatures

  • January District asks all petition signers to present a driver’s license or photo ID to validate their signatures.
  • Parent Revolution set up a table outside the school urging parents to boycott the signature checking.
  • Just over 50 parents presented ID

2011 Courts halted the verification process

2011 May, L.A. Superior Court Judge Anthony Mohr invalidated the petition

  • Signatures lacked dates documenting when parents signed
  • Could not verify whether students were enrolled at time of signature

2011 Profit-motive becomes clear

  • 2011 May 25 L.A. County Office of Education gave Celerity permission to open a charter school at the Church of the Redeemer, two blocks from McKinley.
  • Celerity, hedged its bets and applied in December for a separate charter all while Parent Revolution was orchestrating the McKinley petition with unsuspecting parents
  • Compton District rejected the application but was overruled by the County office
  • McKinley was not converted
  • Celerity, which was hand-picked by Parent Revolution, now takes a share of the funds meant for McKinley STILL operating 2 blocks away
  • Very few students from McKinley transferred to the new charter school

Parent Trigger Attempt # 2: Desert Trails Elementary in Adelanto, CA

2011 Parents told press they did not want to convert to charter

2011 Demanded district provide

  • Smaller class sizes
  • Increased enrichment and elective options for students
  • More experienced teachers

2011 District said demands would cost too much

2011 Parent Revolution threatened charter takeover if demands weren’t met

2012 February 21st Adelanto School District Board of Trustees ruled that the Parent Trigger petition submitted by Desert Trails Parent Union did not have enough signatures to be accepted

2012 Restart petition submitted by Desert Trails Parent Union asking to allow itself the option of using Desert Trails Kids First Organization to manage the independent charter school restart

2012 Parent Revolution lent strategy and technical support to the petition

2012 It became a district responsibility to verify signatures

2012 Profit Motive Becomes Clear:

  • Parents at Desert Trails felt they were mislead by Parent Revolution leaders who presented two different petitions to parents
  • Crisis grew out of parents seeking to rescind their signatures. The Parent Trigger law does not address rescission of signatures
  • Desert Trails Parent Union submitted a second and much less popular petition which led to deep confusion and mistrust among parents
  • Of the two petitions, Parent Trigger submitted the petition asks that Desert Trails be turned over to a for-profit charter developer causing a deep divide among parents.
  • July: Judge Rules that signatures may not be rescinded and that Desert Trails is free to engage the services of a for profit charter school developer.

Florida Parents Thwart Trigger Attempt

In late 2010, the well-funded lobbyist from Parent Revolution descended on Florida to persuade politicians to pass Jeb Bush’s self-proclaimed “#1 Priority,” the “Parent Trigger.” Jeb Bush and his Foundation for Florida’s Future hand-selected Representative Michael Bileca, a member of ALEC (Stand Your Ground Law/Trayvon Martin murder case.) and Senator Lisbeth Beniquisto to sponsor Parent Trigger deceptively titled, “Parent Empowerment.”

Florida Parent Trigger and ALEC

The Foundation for Florida’s Future engaged lobbyist Patricia Levesque who expressed supreme confidence that the “Parent Trigger” would pass. She posted blog stories to that effect. In fact, the FFF website clearly promoted Parent Trigger, an American Legislative Exchange Council model bill, as its number 1 priority months before session began. Not one parent group asked for this legislation. There were ZERO parents writing to endorse or plead for the passage of this bill.

Politicians Silenced Parent Voice

Florida parents recognized instinctively that the Parent Trigger was created to “empower” for-profit charter school development chains. Politicians put the wishes of return- on-investment philanthropists ahead of the children of Florida.

Determined to have a voice, parents contacted the press, reached out to each other and made joint statements to spread the word about the dishonest intentions of the Parent Trigger. Mothers with grade school children made the long drive to Tallahassee to testify against this bill. Each and every time, legislators interrupted or stopped testimony in mid-sentence to silence the voice of Florida parents.

Every major parent group in Florida worked as a team to expose the dishonesty behind this legislation. Funders like Broad, Walton, Gates and Hewlett would not invest millions into for-profit charter expansion and the privatizing of public schools if they didn’t expect massive financial returns.

Finally, the mom’s message broke through and started resonating with reasonable lawmakers like Senator Paula Dockery and Senator Nan Rich. They saw their tone deaf colleagues desperate to pass Parent Revolution folks off as just some “parents.” In fact, on the first day Rep Bileca introduced “Parent Empowerment” in committee, the only people testifying on behalf of the bill were Jeb Bush’s chief lobbyist Patricia Levesque, Parent Revolution lobbyists and the Florida Chamber.

On March 7th, 2012, just days before the final “Parent Trigger” vote, authentic Florida Parents held a press conference in the Senate press room. For the first time in history, parents who vote and love their children held the conversation about Florida Public Schools in the palm of their hands. Reporters, political leaders and more than a few disheartened lobbyists stopped to listen. The moms made the following statement to the packed room:

Orlando, Florida….On Saturday, March 3, 2012, for the third time this week in the Florida Senate, a real Florida parent was cut off mid-sentence during testimony opposing SB 1718/”Parent Empowerment” and told by a sitting Senator that there was no time. This came after the Senate Budget Committee listened to hours of testimony from paid education industry lobbyists.

On Monday, March 5, 2012, members of the broad alliance of Florida education advocacy groups including: Citizens for Strong Schools, 50th No More, Florida PTA, Fund Education Now, Marions United for Public Education, Save Duval Schools and Support Dade Schools traveled to Tallahassee to join a press conference at 9:30A in Room 301 of the Florida Senate Office Building. They made the following comments:

“We are here to set the record straight. We are real Florida moms. We love our children and the children of this state more than ourselves. We have a better vision for the future of public education than the old expensive, unproven reforms meant to hurt children and privatize our public schools. We believe in a single well-funded system of public education that offers remarkable choices. We believe in fair assessment and fair accountability. We believe that mutual respect and collaboration between teachers, parents and districts is the key to rescuing our vibrant public schools from being strangled by a punitive, profit-driven “success is never final and reform is never finished” agenda.

We are frustrated that many of the politicians in this building refuse to hear or acknowledge our voice. For the third time in a week, a real Florida parent testifying against “Parent Empowerment” was cut off in mid-sentence after less than 15 seconds. We travel to Tallahassee on our own dime. We arrange for baby sitters, help with homework over the phone and miss countless precious hours of our children’s lives in order to tell our elected officials what we want. We’re tired of being cut off, interrupted or not allowed to speak. We’ve heard one politician after another repeat that “parents really need to be empowered.” The irony is that we are empowered. We’re here. We’ve been here. We represent over half a million Florida parents.

When politicians grant highly paid professional lobbyists unlimited time to testify and refuse to let us speak, it makes us furious. We are Florida taxpayers, parents and voters. If we don’t have a right to speak during “Parent Empowerment” testimony, who does? We are tired of being told by wide-eyed politicians that they have never heard from us. Our position on the Parent Trigger has been repeatedly and widely published by every major newspaper across the state.

We are here today to go on record: Not one legitimate Florida Parent Group has asked for this Parent Trigger/Parent Empowerment legislation. We do not support this corporate empowerment bill that uses a parent’s love to “pull the trigger” and pass all that they hold dear into the hands of a for-profit corporation eager to peel off a chunk of every child’s per pupil funding dollars for themselves. We will not be silent while our legislators use our money to fund three separate, unequal and unfair systems of education. We do not support laws that benefit 10% of the schools while the other 90% suffer.

This is real. This has gone too far. Florida Public Education is a process not a product. This asset was created for and funded by the people of this state. It belongs to us. We oppose the Parent Empowerment Act and its bad-faith intentions to privatize our public schools.

Florida Senator Nan Rich:

The bill “has everything with laying the groundwork for the hostile, corporate takeover of public schools throughout Florida, a direct attack on public education,” Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston said at a press conference this morning. From Parents, Democrats bash “parent trigger” proposal/Palm Beach Post

Before the event began, Los Angeles-based Parent Revolution lobbyists handed out press release asserting that national Democrats support the controversial measure. The California group called opponents “defenders of the status quo” and accused the Florida Education Association of invoking “new boogeymen” in “an attempt to confuse parents and political observers.” The “parent trigger” is now in place in first-in-the-nation California, Texas and Mississippi. Parents, Democrats bash “parent trigger” proposal, Dara Kam, Palm Beach Post, March 5th, 2012

Parent Trigger WWII-style Propaganda Film

Won’t Back Down funded by Broad Foundation

Parent Trigger is a means to an end. Venture Capitalists and Return on Investment Billionaire Philanthropists want the Parent Trigger. Parents never asked for the parent trigger. As demonstrated in California, most parents are uneasy about what the Parent Trigger means. Driven by a desire to accelerate the privatization of public schools while the economic window of chaos still exists, the Broads, depends on legislation like the Parent Trigger, Broad, has resorted again to a WWII-style propaganda film: Won’t Back Down is scheduled for release in Sept. 2012.

Broad money and Walden Films gave us Waiting for Superman. Now the same team is using g Won’t Back Down, to pitch the Parent Trigger concept to parents and the media. Broad scrapped the documentary format we saw in Waiting for Superman and are banking on 100% emotional content for this one.

Watch this:

Most recent parent trigger failure in CA: Invalid signatures and confusion result in the failure of another parent trigger effort following defeat in FL. I think its failing because its not authentic. These well-funded schemes cannot grow grassroots to save themselves.

In order to sway public thought, Broad scrapped the documentary format we saw in Waiting for Superman and are banking on 100% emotional content for this one.



ALEC Parent Trigger Model Legislation

Trigger Laws: Does Signing a Petition Give Parents a Voice? David Bacon, Rethinking Schools, Vol. 26, Issue 1, Fall 2011

Jeb Bush, personal solicitation letter

for his second run at Parent Trigger in 2013:

Political Deception and Parent Trigger

Mayors Back Parent-Trigger Laws for “Drop-out Factories,” Teresa Wiltz, Pew Stateline, June 19, 2012,

Conference of Mayors: Endorse Parent Trigger

Michelle Rhee of Students First a key lobbyist for Parent Trigger, is married to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson

Kevin Johnson is the Chair of “ed reform” for US Mayors, the host organization for the conference in Orlando. Antonio R. Villaraigosa is the current President of the US Mayors

Jeb Bush, Patricia Levesque, Foundation for Education Excellence, Press Release

Parent Trigger Funders

Foundation for Education Excellence Funders:

Broad Funders:

Parent Revolution Funders:


California Mayors led by Villaraigosa “like” Parent Trigger

LA Mayor Villaraigosa and Sacramento Mayor Johnson have many ties to Gates and Broad,

California’s New Board of Education, Yvonne Chan, Los Angeles Times, January 8, 2011,

Judge Sides With Parents on Calif. “Trigger” Proposal, Sean Cavanagh, ED WEEK, July 23, 2012,

Parent Power Handbook, Parent Revolution,

Adelanto Schools Parent Trigger Law In Effect, District Improperly Rejected Petition, Judge Rules, Christina Hoag, Associated Press via Huffington Post, July 23, 2012

Most recent parent trigger failure in CA: Invalid signatures and confusion result in the failure of another parent trigger effort following defeat in Florida.


Commentary: This bill was not carefully crafted to help Florida parents and children. Its only supporters are billionaires and corporations, Kathleen Oropeza,, Lakeland Ledger, Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Commentary: State’s legislators listening to lobbyists, not parents, Kathleen Oropeza,, Palm Beach Post, Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Moms flex muscles — and Twitter fingers — in Tallahassee. And they win, Kathleen McGrory, Miami Herald

Controversial ‘parent trigger’ bill fails on tie vote in Senate, Kathleen Haughney and Leslie Postal, Orlando Sentinel

Jeb Bush even tried to change vote after it happened, Naked Politics, Miami Herald

Charter school backers find little support in Tallahassee, Kathleen McGrory, Miami Herald, The charter school lobby came to Tallahassee this year with an ambitious agenda.

Walton Foundation Funding Florida Education Groups, John O’Connor, State Impact NPR The Foundation for Excellence in Education received $1.55 million from the Walton FamilyFoundation in 2011, according to a rundown on the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog.

Commentary: Walton Foundation – 2011 Education Reform Grants List [ OP-ED COLUMN ] LAKELAND LEDGER: Charter School Bill About Profit

Commentary: This bill was not carefully crafted to help Florida parents and children. Its only supporters are billionaires and corporations, Kathleen Oropeza,, Lakeland Ledger, Tuesday, February 7, 2012 Commentary: State’s legislators listening to lobbyists, not parents, Kathleen Oropeza, Palm Beach Post,

Spokeswoman who pushed ‘parent trigger’ in Florida to work for Obama campaign in California, Dara Kam, Palm Beach Post, April 20, 2012,

Parents, Democrats bash “parent trigger” proposal, Dara Kam, Palm Beach Post, March 5th, 2012

“Parent Trigger” bill triggers passion, procedural maneuvering, Dara Kam, Palm Beach Post, March 3rd, 2012

Florida House passes bill to allow parents to take over failing public schools, Dara Kam, Palm Beach Post, Thursday, March 1, 2012


The Ultimate Superpower: Supersized Dollars Drive Waiting for Superman Agenda, Barbara Miner, NOT Waiting for Superman, October 2010,

“Parent Trigger” Goes to the Big Screen, Sean Cavanagh, ED WEEK, July 25, 2012,

Won’t Back Down trailer: