Parent Trigger May Be Enacted in Los Angeles Elementary School


Parents at a Los Angeles elementary school have formed a petition in an effort to take over the school, force changes and gain the ability to replace staff and teachers.

If enough parents sign the petition for 20th Street Elementary, it would be another effort in the state to use the "Parent Trigger" law passed in 2010, and the first time to use the law in the LA Unified school district this year.

Former Superintendent John Deasy had previously announced that the district was exempt from the law this school year due to a federal waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act. However, interim Superintendent Ramon Cortines lifted that ban after Deasy resigned last fall.

The effort comes with help from Parent Revolution. The nonprofit group, which is based in the region, has previously worked with parents at other schools.

The announcement was made by parents in a letter sent to Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines.

"Our children are not well-prepared to go to middle school or the next grade level," said parent Omar Calvillo in an interview.

While a number of the teachers at the school are considered to be excellent, parents signing the petition feel too many teachers at the school are not effective and need to either be replaced or receive additional training.

In enough parents sign the petition to account for a majority of students at the school, they will be allowed to call an election to determine how the school should be run. Options include shutting down the school and replacing it with a charter school that is exempt from the district's union contracts and from some provisions of state law.

Parents at 20th Street Elementary would like to see it become a district-managed pilot school, which would allow some freedoms that come with a charter school. Schools that operate in this way use a simpler union contract and teachers must choose to opt in to the school's new efforts. If they choose not to, they can be forced to transfer to another school, writes Howard Blume for The LA Times.

"We think the local autonomy and staffing flexibility given to pilot schools will open the door to the sort of changes and increased accountability we need at 20th Street Elementary," the letter signed by parents said. "We are always willing to consider other credible plans the district might put forward to meet our objectives."

There are currently several forms of the parent trigger law in existence within seven states.

Critics of the law feel it is merely an additional way to privatize public education under the guise of parent empowerment. Meanwhile, supporters argue the law gives the power necessary to parents to make changes in schools that are performing poorly.

One such law currently in place in Texas is under consideration for changes to increase parent involvement within the school system. The law, enacted in the state in 2011, only applies to schools given a rating of "unacceptable" by the state for five or more years. However, Senate Bill 14 would decrease the number of years a school must be on the list to only two years.

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