LAUSD Rejects Parent Trigger Petition, Groups Push Back

(Photo: P. Mateus, Creative, Commons)

(Photo: P. Mateus, Creative Commons)

Los Angeles Unified School District leaders have denied a "parent trigger" petition from a group of parents asking to give control of their southeast Los Angeles elementary school to a charter school operator.

The 20th Street Elementary School cannot be turned over to a charter organization because the school is not covered by the California law that allows parents to demand changes at a school their children attend. Parents who believe their children's school is not performing well can gather enough signatures and submit the petition to the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). In this case, 350 parents signed a petition and submitted it in February.

Kyle Stokes of KPCC Public Radio writes that the 20th Street school is not required to follow the law because it met its "adequate yearly progress" goal set forth by national school accountability measures.

The state's parent trigger law was passed in 2010 and has remained controversial. Those who support the law say it empowers parents to force necessary adaptations when a school unsuccessful. But critics counter that actions made to turn schools over to charter operators are usually motivated by those who want to take power away from teachers unions and established school districts.

Gabe Rose, the chief strategy officer of advocacy group Parent Revolution that backs parent trigger attempts, says the district is incorrect about the ineligibility of the 20th Street school to have corrective action taken.

20th Street's most recent Academic Performance Index score is 765. The mark a school must reach to meet its adequate yearly progress is 800.

"A lot of these are not matters of opinion, they're actually provably false," Rose said. "I think it's unfortunate that LAUSD chose to go down this road rather than spending their time, energy and money trying to work with families that are trying to make their school better."

But another problem brought up by LAUSD attorney David R. Holmquist was that the petition did not specifically state the kind of intervention parents were asking to make. It was not clear to Holmquist whether parents wanted to turn the school over to a charter operator, to an education management group, or to an operator that was not necessarily a charter.

The Feb. 1 letter from the parents to LAUSD Superintendent Michelle King said they wanted a new principal and a promise that the district would further train teachers. The delay by the district led the group to turn in an additional petition which included 58% of the school's parents' signatures.

"It's incredible to me," Rose said, "that LAUSD apparently … is throwing a kitchen sink of highly-technical and inaccurate legal arguments at families hoping that either they'll give up or that they'll win a bank shot case in court."

Former state senator Gloria Romero, who was the author of the law, said the rejection by LAUSD is shameful. Romero added that the new superintendent is not providing adequate leadership. She also stated the reaction from the district was not in line with the spirit of the law, according to The Seventy Four's Mike Szymanski and LA School Report.

Romero continued by saying the district should not be wasting the taxpayers' money by battling with parents on this issue, particularly since this is the reason she wrote the law in the first place. A law firm has already offered to assist the parents at no cost to the state.

In the letter written to the 20th Street Elementary School Parents Union by LAUSD's General Counsel Holmquist, he says the District continues to be committed to assisting parents in establishing reforms that will "improve the delivery of services and student performance" at the school.

Holmquist also notified the parents of a meeting in the next few weeks with the entire 20th Street Elementary School Community "to build a unified vision."

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