Community Leader’s View: Parents hold power for better schools

By Shelli Kurth and Teresa Drew

Directors, Up for Ed

The new school year is in full swing.

Parents are back to rushing kids to and from school, helping with homework and juggling schedules. On top of these packed days, maybe you’ll squeeze in classroom volunteer time or even attend a board of education meeting. Good for you.

But you better hold onto your socks, because new California state legislation is sweeping across the nation turns the idea of “parent engagement” upside down. The Parent Empowerment Law or “parent trigger” gives parents, the ability to transform their failing schools.

What’s the “parent trigger?”

Much as the name implies, it’s a tool that parents can use to band together and turn around a failing school. If 51 percent of parents whose children attend a failing school sign a petition, they can force or “trigger” one of five school intervention models.

Parents have a big responsibility in this new educational landscape that moves beyond bake sales. State legislation in California and around the country is putting parents in a more influential position. We must ask ourselves, “How can our community come together to make sure schools put kids first?”

Many San Diego parents are watching their children be under-served and left behind. Some families can afford to avoid public schools. Others either land at charters or remain at local public schools.

Now, with parents in the reformer seat, we’ll have to become savvier about what a quality education looks like for our kids.

It’s time to look at life between the hours of 6 and 6 to see what’s really going on. Like it or not, parents are now the face of reform and it’s high time we do our homework.

Shelli Kurth and Teresa Drew are directors of UP for Ed. Learn more at