The “Parent-Trigger” Goes to Compton

-Kristina Rizga, Mother Jones-Kristina Rizga, Mother Jones

[UPDATE: “Parent-trigger” organizers are now accused of misleading parents.]

This week, parents of kids attending LA’s public McKinley Elementary School in Compton are trying something new: Shutting down the chronically struggling institution and demanding that it be replaced by a charter school. [Read Kevin Drum for a good backgrounder on charter schools.]

Can parents really do that? In California they sure can, thanks to the state’s new “parent-trigger” law, which allows parents to force big changes at the state’s lowest-performing schools.

And Compton is just the first case. The Los Angeles Times reports that parent-trigger laws are in various stages nation-wide. Meanwhile, former DC school head Michelle Rhee has launched what she calls a “national movement” to push for more charters and “teacher accountability.”

The idea of using charter schools to “solve” low-performing public school issues—as opposed to increasing school funding and teacher pay—remains a divisive one. For now, parents in Compton are joining Michelle Rhee’s camp, and it’s hard to blame them. Thanks to Prop. 13 and budget cuts, parents in low-income communities in California aren’t always able to get more funding or better teachers for their schools. Aside from giving charters a chance, what other options are there for Compton parents in the short-term?


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn’t fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation so we can keep on doing the type of journalism that 2018 demands.

Donate Now
  • Kristina Rizga

    Kristina Rizga is a former education correspondent at Mother Jones. You can reach her at Rizga covers education, focusing primarily on how school reforms affect students and teachers in the classrooms, and how policies create or reduce racial disparities in schools. She is the author of Mission High (Nation Books, 2015).