New Jersey's 13th Legislative District

Senator Joe Kyrillos

Senator Joe Kyrillos

Kyrillos: “Won’t Back Down” Movie a Poignant Call to Empower Parents to Change Failing Schools

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Senator Joe Kyrillos (R-Monmouth) said today that the past weekend’s box office opening of “Won’t Back Down”, based on the true story of parents in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) historic fight to force change in their community’s failing schools, is an important reminder that education reform starts with parental engagement.

Kyrillos is the sponsor of New Jersey’s “Parent Empowerment and Choice” legislation (S- 803), commonly called “the parent trigger”, which is modeled after the sweeping changes obtaining by LAUSD parents giving them broad powers to transform failing schools through petition and referendum. He first submitted the proposal in 2011.

“Tens of thousands of Americans saw a great example of the power of the parents to take charge of their children’s education if given the chance in the major Hollywood movie “Won’t Back Down” this past weekend,” Kyrillos said. “The authority that was given to the parents of the Los Angeles Unified School District to force changes that the education establishment could not or would not make in order to provide students a quality education is a common-sense response to a pressing problem in many school districts. Government and education officials should not force children to wait to get the education they deserve, and the parent trigger ensures that kids are not forced to wait any longer.”

Under Kyrillos’s bill, parents of children in a low performing school may petition to force the following reform measures at a particular school: (1) reopening as a charter school, (2) changes in school administrators including but not limited to the principal, (3) establishment of a tuition voucher program. The board of education or State district superintendent must grant the change if a majority of parents in the school in question sign the petition.

Other versions of the parent trigger law have recently been passed in California, Mississippi, Texas, Indiana, Louisiana, Connecticut and Ohio, and the idea has been endorsed by the US Conference of Mayors with the well-known Democratic mayors of Los Angeles (Antonio Villaraigosa), Philadelphia (Michael Nutter) and Sacramento (former NBA basketball star Kevin Johnson) supporting parent trigger legislation.

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