Parents Taking Over School Whether They Want to or Not

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Superior Court judge has given parents in the poor Southern California school district of Adelanto the green light to become the first in the nation to use a petition trigger to take over a school, although a number of them have changed their minds about the move.

California was the first state to pass a  “Parent Trigger” law in 2010 and the first to see it invoked when more than half the students’ legal guardians at Desert Trails Elementary School signed a petition earlier in the year to take over the school. But the school district rejected the petition in March when nearly 100 parents asked to rescind their signatures, leaving the drive 20 signatures short.

Supporters of the rescission campaign alleged fraud and forgery. They also argued that teachers had harassed parents into signing the petition and many who signed didn’t realize it could result in the school becoming a charter.

Triggers supporters sued and won when Judge Steve Malone ruled the rescissions were improper and an “abuse of discretion” by the school district. School board President Carlos Mendoza said he would recommend the board appeal the decision.

Ben Austin, who helped organize the trigger campaign, said parents would now seek to turn Desert Trails into a charter school run by a private management company.

Desert Trails has been designated a failing school for six years. Only 35% of students tested proficient in English and just 46% in math. Barely one-fourth of students graduating are proficient in reading, writing and math.

Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana have passed trigger laws and New York, Michigan and Pennsylvania are debating the issue. Triggers were endorsed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors last month. They are regarded generally as a first step toward changing over to a charter school and teachers’ unions often oppose them.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

California Parents Set to Take over Failing School (by Stephanie Simon, Reuters)

Adelanto Schools Parent Trigger Law in Effect, District Improperly Rejected Petition, Judge Rules (by Christina Hoag, Associated Press)

“Trigger” Parents Sue Adelanto School District (by Natasha Lindstrom, Victor Valley Dailey Press)

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