Los Angeles Claims Waiver from Parent Trigger Law

The controversial parent trigger law, which permits parents to petition for serious changes in failing schools, cannot be used this year in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), say district officials.

Teresa Watanabe, writing for the Los Angeles Times, explains that in a letter from a district lawyer to former state Sen. Gloria Romero (D – 24th district), officials said that the parent trigger law would not be utilized this year because the school system had received a waiver last year from the federal educational requirements that are linked to it.  In place of the law, LAUSD had joined with eight other California districts to make their own reforms and to establish systems needed to gauge progress.

Romero authored the parent trigger law in 2010 and was outraged by the letter sent from Kathleen Collins, LAUSD’s chief administrative law and litigation counsel.

 “I am livid about this,” Romero said. “I believe it violates the spirit and intent of parent empowerment.”

She also founded the California Center for Parent Empowerment.  In an interview Romero explained her point of view.

“I’m not saying LAUSD is wrong on the legal interpretation; I just don’t know, and that’s why I’m seeking another legal interpretation from the state,” she said, “But LAUSD’s decision violates the spirit and intent of the law.”

“What I want to know,” she added, “is why did they keep this quiet all this time.”

Superintendent John Deasy says that he is still in favor of the law, and added that low-performing schools would again be subject to parental petitions for change after this school year.  The waiver simply restarted the two-year period during which schools are evaluated to be under-performing before they are eligible for a “trigger overhaul”.  At substandard schools, 50% of parents can force changes in curriculum, changes in staff, shut down the school, or have the school converted to a charter school.

Already in California, parent groups at three schools have overhauled campuses using the trigger law.  At one school in Adelanto, parents transformed the school into a charter.  After the change, 91% of parents thought the school was better.  Gabe Rose, of Parent Revolution, the Los Angeles non-profit that lobbied for the law, say that three additional schools were changed by parents without even having to use a petition campaign.  Parent Revolution is calling for the reversal of the decision to void the trigger law for this year.

Kara Kerwin, president of the Center for Education, writes in the Readers React opinion section of the Los Angeles Times, that, “Accountability and parental involvement are critical to a school’s success, and it’s a shame that the district feels compelled to undermine the positive relationship between parents and educators.”

Teacher Dee White, with 34 years in the classroom, says,”Parent-trigger laws, charter schools, teaching to the test and increased dropout rates and delinquency are the results of disempowering educators and giving politicians, lobbyists and corporations greater control over schools.”

Parent Revolution is of the opinion that the only organizations that are empowered to alter or invalidate California’s Parent Empowerment Act are the state legislature or a judge,  And, the group says, neither one has done so, writes Michael Janofsky of the Los Angeles School Report.  Parent Revolution also noted that a letter was sent from the Department of Education in Washington to Deasy stating that neither the federal government nor any other entity can override state law.