San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Steve Malone has ruled that parents in Adelanto, a desert town 90 miles northeast of Los Angeles, should be allowed to implement the state’s trigger law, which says that a majority of families at a struggling school can force major changes, from firing the principal to closing the school and reopening it as an independent charter. All they need to do to wrest control is sign a petition.
Parent Trigger Law Upheld for Desert Trails Elementary
The ruling by San Bernardino Judge Steve Malone to allow parents to take over a school labeled as ‘failing’ is a big deal. I have been writing about “parent-triggers” fairly regularly because inherent in them exists a fantastically huge opportunity for abuse.
Picture being an aggressive Charter school operator in a particular area, and, imagine what your mission is. Obviously, your mission is to expand the number of schools you operate to make more money…basically, privatizing public education. Now, with Judge Malone’s ruling, we basically have a decision which endorses or codifies those in the reform movement to move against public education.
Some will say…but, but…this is about parent empowerment! Nonsense. This is about a concerted effort to break public education and outsource the dollars that schools are legally mandated to receive into private hands! This is about money, it is always about money. Now, what do you think is going to happen at this little school? This is an easy one; they are going to actively solicit Charter schools to come in and take over – even though Charter schools have NO better record than public schools when it comes to educating students and in many cases their track records are worse than public schools.
Do schools who have poor performance need help? Yes, they do! I would suggest parent outreach, education, and participation as one of the first steps. Then, I would suggest extensive before and after school programs as well as volunteer tutor programs for both students and parents…but, all of these things cost money. It will be interesting to see what happens 90 miles north east of Los Angeles at this school, interesting on many levels.
A group of California parents has cleared a legal hurdle to become the first in the nation to take over a failing elementary school under a “parent trigger law,” a legal tool gaining popularity around the country.
Parents advocating for gifted students have helped shape the debate over admissions to the prestigious math and science high school.At a Los Angeles gathering to celebrate the decision, the parents said they hoped to set an example for the nation of what is possible. “Our children will now get the education they deserve,” said Doreen Diaz, whose daughter attends Desert Trails Elementary in Adelanto. “We are on the way to making a quality school for them, and there’s no way we will back down.”
At Desert Trails last year, two-thirds of the children failed the state reading exam, more than half were not proficient in math, and nearly 80 percent failed the science exam. The school has not met state standards for six years, and scores place it in the bottom 10 percent of schools statewide.
It’s just the type of situation reformers had in mind when they wrote the trigger law, which applies to 1,300 public schools in California that, under certain criteria, are labeled as “failing.”
Earlier this year, the Adelanto Elementary School District rejected the parents’ trigger law petition twice, saying each time that it lacked the required number of valid signatures.
But Malone ruled Wednesday that the parents had indeed gathered enough valid signatures and ordered the school district to accept their petition. He also said the school district should immediately let the parents start soliciting and selecting charter school proposals for Desert Trails.
“These parents did it,” said Ben Austin, director of Parent Revolution, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that gave the parents strategic and legal help. “They are the first parents in America to win a parent trigger campaign, the first parents in America to take control of the educational destiny of their children. It’s a big deal.”
Austin said that the court ruling came too late for the parents to select a charter operator for the coming school year and that any change is likely to come in 2013. “It would be irresponsible to open up a school in just weeks,” he said.
Carlos Mendoza, a high school teacher and chairman of the school district’s board of trustees, wrote in an e-mail that the board has yet to discuss the court decision. But he will recommend that the district appeal it, he said.
The idea behind the 2010 law — placing ultimate power in parents’ hands — resonates with any parent who has felt frustrated by school bureaucracy.
But others see the 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. A group of Desert Trails parents is opposed to the trigger, and they have received help from the California Teachers Association, the state’s largest teachers union.
Trigger laws are spreading beyond California. Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana have passed similar measures, and they are being debated elsewhere, including in Maryland. Last month, the U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously endorsed trigger laws. Even Hollywood has noticed; a feature film, “Won’t Back Down,” made by the producers of the 2010 documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman,’ ” is coming out this fall.