Parents prepare to take over failing school
By The Washington Post
Published: Tuesday, July 24, 2012, 6:14 p.m.
A group of California parents has cleared a legal hurdle to become the first in the nation to take over a failing elementary school under a “parent trigger law,” a legal tool gaining popularity around the country.
San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Steve Malone has ruled that parents in Adelanto, a desert town 90 miles northeast of Los Angeles, should be allowed to implement the state's trigger law, which says that a majority of families at a struggling school can force major changes, from firing the principal to closing the school and reopening it as an independent charter. All they need to do to wrest control is sign a petition.
At a Los Angeles gathering to celebrate the decision, the parents said they hoped to set an example for the nation. “Our children will now get the education they deserve,” said Doreen Diaz, whose daughter attends Desert Trails Elementary in Adelanto. “We are on the way to making a quality school for them, and there's no way we will back down.”
At Desert Trails last year, two-thirds of the children failed the state reading exam, more than half were not proficient in math, and nearly 80 percent failed the science exam. The school has not met state standards for six years, and scores place it in the bottom 10 percent of schools statewide.
It's just the type of situation reformers had in mind when they wrote the trigger law, which applies to 1,300 public schools in California that, under certain criteria, are labeled as “failing.”
Earlier this year, the Adelanto Elementary School District rejected the parents' trigger law petition twice, saying each time that it lacked the required number of valid signatures.
But Malone ruled that the parents had indeed gathered enough valid signatures and ordered the district to accept their petition. He also said the district should immediately let the parents start soliciting and selecting charter school proposals for Desert Trails.
“These parents did it,” said Ben Austin, director of Parent Revolution, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that gave the parents strategic and legal help. “They are the first parents in America to win a parent trigger campaign, the first parents in America to take control of the educational destiny of their children. It's a big deal.”
Austin said that the court ruling happened too late for the parents to select a charter operator for the upcoming school year and that any change is likely to happen in 2013. “It would be irresponsible to open up a school in just weeks,” he said.
Carlos Mendoza, a high school teacher and chairman of the school district's board of trustees, wrote in an email that the board has yet to discuss the court decision. But he will recommend that the district appeal it, he said.
The idea behind the 2010 law — placing ultimate power in parents' hands — resonates with any parent who has felt frustrated by school bureaucracy.
But others see the law as dangerous, handing the complex challenge of education to people who may be unprepared to meet it. Critics also say the law circumvents elected school boards and invites abuse by charter operators bent on taking over public schools. A group of Desert Trails parents is opposed to the trigger, and they have received help from the California Teachers Association, the state's largest teachers union.
Trigger laws are spreading beyond California. Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana have passed similar measures, and they are being debated elsewhere, including in Maryland. The U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously endorsed trigger laws. Even Hollywood has noticed; a feature film, “Won't Back Down,” made by the producers of the 2010 documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman,' “ is coming out this fall.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Kansas public school funding unconstitutional
- ‘Holy grail of guitars’ for sale in April auction
- Deputy accused of illegal stops
- Miranda read to sex assault accuser, 14
- Nuke plant safety improving, watchdog says — with cautions
- El Nino could bring relief to U.S.
- Border Patrol ordered to stop shooting at vehicles
- Accuser takes stand during court-martial
- California man named as bitcoin creator denies involvement
- Maryland bill would link criminal, gun owners data
- Sex-crimes prosecutor accused in groping