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?