Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s 2012 legislative education package included a version of the controversial California ‘parent trigger’ law. Under current laws, failing public school face state takeovers after four years of failing grades, but the trigger law allows parents to force the takeover after only three years.
The key hurdle is that takeover advocates would have to collect signatures from 50 percent of the parents or guardians of students attending the school, plus one more, and submit the petition to the state Department of Education.
This policy was approved earlier this week by the state’s top school board; Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE).
There will be information on the Department of Education’s website detailing which schools can be targeted, the number of signatures required for the school and providing information about petition procedures and deadlines for completion of the process. Nearly 20% of Louisiana’s public schools currently meet the criteria for being parent-targetable after receiving state issued grades of D or F for three consecutive years.
After the list of targetable schools is released in October, takeover advocates will have 90 days to collect the signatures. If the fall short there is a 30 day extension available. If successful there will be an update to the department website detailing the procedure for takeover opponents to challenge the signatures. Challenges need to be submitted within 15 days of notification that a petition was completed.
Challenges could include charges that the student did not attend the school, that the signature was a forgery, that it was signed as a result of harassment or because of the promise of a gift.
Erroneous dates with the signature and misspelled names would not be considered acceptable grounds for a challenge.
The BESE-approved rules also say that “signatures shall not be discounted over technicalities if the clear intent of the parent or legal guardian was to support the petition.”
While the California trigger law has led to acrimonious lawsuits at the schools involved with the school boards rejecting the petitions in Adelanto and Compton amid arguments over the validity of the signatures collected, Louisiana is seeking to pre-empt any such concerns with these more detailed rules. The rules also prohibit the harassment of parents or others who are circulating the petition. Efforts to hinder the name gathering process are included in the prohibition, with violators facing possible criminal prosecution.
School, district and board employees cannot use public resources to take part in the process, whether backing or opposing a petition.