Los Angeles Parent Activism Driven By Immigrants, Minorities

As California parents are growing more concerned with new testing practices and the rollout of Common Core, they are becoming increasingly involved in the state’s education debate. The new era of advocacy has seen community and civil rights organizations supporting much of the parent organizing — and groups are reaching out to immigrant families to boost activism.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice and MALDEF, a Mexican American civil rights organization, are managing a network of 16 parent groups to educate families on problems such as school budgets. The organizations are training parents in leadership skills to push for translation services, better nutrition and other pressing school matters, writes Teresa Watanabe and Stephen Ceasar of Los Angeles Times.

Mary Lou Fulton, a senior program manager at the California Endowment, said the face of parent involvement is changing in California, “given that 70% of state’s population under age 25 are youth of color.”

According to Fulton, community groups including PICO, a faith-based community network, and COFEM, the Consejo de Federaciones Mexicanas en Norteamérica, are expanding into parent organizing.

In Cudahy, parents and teachers at Teresa Hughes Elementary want the principal to leave the post. Rosie Navarro, a campus volunteer who removed her son from the school this year, said parents were concerned about continued low test scores, bullying and an unclean campus. According to Navarro, many parents were distressed by the principal’s “intimidation and threats.”

Teachers also had concerns — at least six transferred last year and several more intend to do so if the principal is not replaced, said Mario Andrade, the United Teachers Los Angeles representative on campus. He said she was not collaborative and has not provided support to improve teaching.

Parents joined forces with teachers this fall and launched a petition for new leadership signed by 661 people. The petition has been submitted to Los Angeles Unified officials, Navarro and Andrade said.

Under the 2010 state parent trigger law, parents are allowed to demand changes in staff, curriculum, close the school or convert to an independent charter campus. If parents of at least half the students request changes, school boards must comply unless they show cause why they cannot.

The Cudahy parents, however, decided not to organize under that law, leaving them without its legal leverage to force change. Parents and teachers were also worried that using the law for a leadership change would also require all teachers to reapply for their jobs, according to Navarro.

Gabe Rose of Parent Revolution, the Los Angeles nonprofit that has organized parent trigger campaigns, said the law allows the removal of a principal without forcing out the teaching staff.

Ingrid Villeda of the teachers union said, however, that many instructors view the trigger law as flawed and wanted to support parent efforts without it. “This is a test case: What will the district do with a petition not formed under the parent trigger law?” Villeda said.

Regarding Cortez-Covarrubias, James Noble, operations administrator for the district’s south area schools, said: “We did not find any complaints that would cause concern.”

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