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Louisiana became the fourth state in the country to put in place a controversial “parent trigger” law this month, joining California, Mississippi, and Texas. The laws essentially allow parents to force through significant changes in governance or leadership at a struggling school through a majority vote. (Connecticut also has a parent trigger provision in place, but parents’ ability to make changes are far more limited.)

It will remain to be seen whether Louisiana’s parent trigger has any practical effect, however. The new law allows a majority of parents at public schools with a letter grade of ‘D’ or ‘F’ under the state’s accountability system to request a takeover by the state-run Recovery School District (RSD). The letter grades are based mostly on test scores.

But the state education board still has to approve any transfers of schools into the RSD; and a school has to receive a low grade for three consecutive years to be eligible for the parent vote. Under existing law, the state board of education in Louisiana can already pull any ‘F’ schools into the RSD after four years, a process that is less time-consuming than application of the parent trigger, which involves canvassing parents.

The state board of education has handed over most schools in the RSD to independent charter school operators. In New Orleans, for instance, all but a handful of high-performing public schools were absorbed by the RSD after Katrina. This school year about 80 percent of public school children in the city attend charters.

The creation of the parent trigger option was part of a sweeping education package pushed through the Louisiana state legislature by Gov. Bobby Jindal this month. Other parts of the package are expected to have much more immediate — and wide-ranging–effect, including the creation of a statewide voucher program, new limits to teacher tenure protection, and the expansion of charter schools.

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