Give parents more control over school operations, and student performance will improve. That's the false premise behind a legislative proposal for a "parent trigger'' law.
Minnesota can do without it. There is little evidence that similar laws have worked elsewhere. And parents in Minnesota already have a number of ways to exert their influence when they're dissatisfied with their schools. Under the proposal, parents could force changes in principals, convert low-performing schools to charter schools, or close them and transfer students to other schools. Only schools that are on the state's list of lower-performing traditional, charter or alternative public schools would be eligible for intervention. If at least 51 percent of the parents from one of those schools or its feeder schools were unhappy with the program's performance, they could petition the local school board to implement one of several intervention models.
Petitioning parents could also demand that a school be closed and reopened as a new charter or under the management of a current charter. The idea is that parents could be the "trigger'' that forces educational reform and improved achievement.
But in Minnesota, parents already are pulling the trigger on schools that don't work well for their children. Local families -- especially those with students in the most troubled schools -- have voted with their feet by switching schools. Ten years ago, about 10,000 students attended Minnesota charter schools. Today, the number has grown to more than 39,000, according to the Center for School Change.
Parents and community members can already band together to create new programs without the trigger law. Families also have a