Another Parent Trigger Action Fails in California

Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto is the latest school to try to use 2010's passing of a parent trigger law in California to assert parental control over the school. The trigger law is designed so that if 51% of parents in a failing school agree it's necessary, they can force its closure and a charter school takeover. However, the petition was rejected by the Adelanto school board amid claims that parents representing 97 students had revoked their signatures. This was enough to reduce the number of ‘valid signatures' under the legal threshold of 51%.

This result was almost identical to last year's test case at Compton's McKinley Elementary School where the school board also rejected the petition amongst amid charges of deceit on both sides.

Parent Revolution, an education group that focuses on the execution of parent trigger overhauls, lobbied for the law initially and provided aid to disaffected parents at both schools. Gabe Rose, the deputy director, claimed that some of the revoked signatures were a result of the parents being misled with horror stories and claims that not revoking their signature would result in the immediate closure of the school.

It is also unclear legally whether parents have the ability to rescind their signatures even if they wish to. The Compton case is still awaiting a court decision.

"Once again, we have seen defenders of the status quo use the full range of lies, misinformation, and dirty tactics to pressure parents into ‘rescinding' their signatures," Rose said. "These anti-parent tactics are not only immoral, but are in direct violation of the parent trigger law … and they will not be allowed to stand."

While Parent Revolution remains committed to continuing to provide aid to the parents involved, the future of the trigger law itself is dubious. In 2010 it only narrowly passed into law, and the new state education board is widely seen as substantially less reformist.

The fate of the parent trigger law has been the subject of much speculation since Brown shook up the state board of education at the beginning of the year. His new appointments shifted the balance of power from philanthropists and charter school enthusiasts to teachers union backers and educators. Most significant for the future of the parent trigger law was Ben Austin's ouster. Austin is chief executive of the Los Angeles-based group Parent Revolution which has helped organize Compton's McKinley Elementary School parents, and a parent trigger law proponent.

The state board will reconvene to decide whether to extend the law or let it expire on March 15th.

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