Monday, January 16, 2012

Parents Rebel Against School

 I continue to believe that Parent Trigger laws are a critically important tool to effect change.  Here's a great story about another school in California in which the parents have organized to "throw the bums out".  I love the union spokesperson's response – so typical: blame the victims of the failing school:

Fed-up parents of students attending a low-performing school in Southern California aim to use the power given to them by the state to take an unusual step: fire the school.

This power, called a Parent Trigger, was passed into law in California in 2010, but parents are attempting for only the second time to use it at Desert Trails Elementary outside Los Angeles. Their effort to force Adelanto Elementary School District to overhaul the school, or turn it into a charter school run by the parents themselves, is expected to be closely watched across the nation.

Similar legislation passed in Texas and Mississippi last year and is under consideration in Florida, Pennsylvania and Indiana this year.

The parents group has gathered the signatures of 70% of the parents at the school and plans to deliver a petition to school district officials on Thursday. Under the law, parents can force a district to close a school, convert it to a charter or replace the principal and the teachers if at least 50% of them sign a petition. Last year, parents in Compton tried to trigger such a change, but their petition has been tied up in a lengthy court battle with the school district.

"We've been complaining for years that our school needs some help and nobody was listening, so we are taking it into our own hands," said Doreen Diaz, who has a fifth-grade daughter at the Desert Trails school and spearheaded the petition drive.

Officials of the school district say some overhauls sought by parents would be costly and difficult to implement.

Parent Trigger laws like the one in California are at the vanguard of the fight over fixing the nation's lowest-achieving schools and the power struggle over who will make those fixes. The nation's teachers unions have generally opposed the trigger laws, arguing that they focus on closing schools or firing staff, instead of bringing more resources to troubled campuses.

The unions note that, in California at least, the effort has been coordinated by Parent Revolution, a nonprofit funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation, which support big school overhauls and have been critical of teachers unions. Parent Revolution helped organize parents in Compton and at Desert Trails.

"Our concern with the Parent Trigger law is it assumes that the problem at these schools is the teaching staff or the leadership," said Frank Wells, spokesman for the California Teachers Association. "Then it suggests changes that might not be the panacea for what is keeping a school down, such as extreme poverty or student transiency."

Parent Revolution sees the law—and the parent organizations they help form—as a counterweight to the unions and the school districts. "Right now, we have a duopoly that hasn't served kids," said Gabe Rose, deputy director of the nonprofit. "Parents are the third leg to the stool."

Parents Rebel Against School

Petition Drive Under California Law Could Lead to Mass Firings or Charter Shift


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