There is a fascinating story today in the Washington Post about parents trying to use a trigger law to gain control of a failing public school in California.

The school is Desert Trails Elementary, which has not met California standards for six years and is in the bottom 10 percent of statewide schools. Two-thirds of Desert Trails’ children failed the state reading exam last year, while more than half couldn’t do math, and nearly 80 percent failed the science exam.

And here is the paragraph that caught my eye:

Others see the trigger law as dangerous, handing the complex challenge of education to people who may be unprepared to meet it. Critics also say the law circumvents elected school boards and invites abuse by charter operators bent on taking over public schools.

And how are the professionals at Desert Trails currently “handling the complex challenge of education” in a way that shows they have a better grasp of those complexities than mere parents who want the best for their children?

The parents who are trying to gain control of the school are backed by an organization funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. And—yes—here is the utterly predictable thing you need to know about the opposition:

In recent weeks, a group of parents opposed to the trigger has formed, with help from the California Teachers Association, the state’s largest teachers union.

An education activist is quoted saying that for minority groups the trigger law is a way to improve their children’s education, while on the right “it’s just another way for conservative forces to trim back the power of the teacher unions.”

Looks to me that both sides have the same goal: improving public schools. Essential to that project, it more and more appears, is reducing the power of teachers’ unions. As to the notion that education is too “complex” for parents, this is just the sort of mumbo jumbo a union would peddle in an attempt to pretend its members have some kind of arcane knowledge that parents lack.

California, often so misguided, has been a pioneer in the parent-trigger movement, but Florida is currently considering a similar law. Former governor Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education is supporting the effort. Here is the amusing paragraph in a report on developments in Florida:

Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, who supports investing in public education, better pay for teachers and limiting the scope of standardized testing, said Monday that the bill cheats “students,” “parents,” and “the state of Florida.”

Now, let’s see—more money, higher teacher pay and not holding anybody accountable with those pesky test scores. Whom does that benefit, unionized teachers or students?

It’s impossible to know if the Desert Trails parents have the right ideas from reading the story, but things couldn’t be any worse than under the professionals. But as a Heritage Foundation blog noted two years ago, describing an earlier parental trigger battle in California:

When the education unions are mad, you know you’re on the right track. And when parents are empowered, you can be assured you are. The parent trigger has accomplished both in California and will hopefully begin a wave of parent- and student-centered empowerment throughout the country.  

Another important aspect of the parent trigger is that it returns school control to the local level. Who knows? Maybe parents could trigger a process by which education becomes as good as it was before Jimmy Carter created the Department of Education?