The big white tent at Los Angeles Trade Technical College was festooned with balloons, draped in orange and white pennants and full of music. Swelling gospel-flavored sounds, Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” and the ubiquitous party song “No te Metes con Mi Cucu” signaled a break in the program after a parade of speakers.
The floor was covered with AstroTurf.
Last Saturday’s “Parent Power Convention” was the first-ever national gathering held by Parent Revolution, an organization founded here in 2009. With its feel-good inclusive vibe, the November 15 assembly attracted hundreds of parents, mostly African-American and Latino, from neighborhoods with failing and struggling schools.
Invitations offered free local transportation and childcare. There were many out-of-state visitors. Just as a national political party convention would be organized, delegates sat at tables with tall vertical signs that announced where they were from—Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi – or identified the “parent unions”
Throughout 2011 and 2012, the eyes of the education world were focused on Adelanto, a small, working class town in California’s High Desert. A war had broken out there over the future of the K-6 Desert Trails Elementary School and its 660 low-income Latino and African-American students. When the dust settled, Desert Trails Elementary was gone. In its place was a bitterly divided community and the Desert Trails Preparatory Academy, the first (and so far, only) school in California and the U.S. to be fully chartered under a Parent Trigger law, which allows a simple majority of a school’s parents to wrest control of a low-performing school from a public school district, and transform it into a charter school.
Tiny Adelanto’s turmoil reflects a much larger battle now being fought across America between defenders of traditional public education and a self-described reform movement whose partisans often favor the privatization and deregulation of education.
Whether or not Parent Trigger represents a bold frontier in the movement to privatize the nation’s public education system, its implementation in California’s High Desert does bear some of the freewheeling aspects of the old Wild West.
Particularly when it comes to accountability and due process. Where do parents or teachers blow the whistle if they suspect a charter school is violating education code or the promises made to students in its own chartering language?
In California, the chartering school district has the statutory authority, and arguably the responsibility, to investigate violations of the law and of the school’s charter. Under Education Code §47607, it may revoke a school’s charter if the school violates the law or violates the conditions set forth in its charter.
Eight former Desert Trails teachers have emphasized to Capital & Main that it was only after frustrated parents told them that Parent Revolution said they were on their own in working out any grievances directly with Desert Trails that the teachers stepped in and took their own allegations of code and charter violations to the school’s chartering authority,
A controversy surrounding the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) compliance with California’s contentious Parent Trigger law has apparently opened up a rift between key allies responsible for passing the state’s so-called Parent Empowerment Act.
LAUSD’s decision to grant itself a year’s recess from the 2010 trigger law’s provisions came to light only last week when its author, former state Senator Gloria Romero, leaked a letter from an LAUSD lawyer claiming that, as part of a two-year waiver it received in 2013 from the federal Department of Education, the district is not subject to the Parent Trigger law through the 2014-2015 school year. The law allows parents to take over low-performing public schools and replace faculty with non-unionized teachers under the management of private charters.
That waiver, which was granted last November but only announced August 5 by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, frees LAUSD and seven other state school districts from penalties connected to not meeting a 2014 deadline for 100 percent math and reading proficiency mandated by the George W.
The topic of last Thursday’s roundtable discussion hosted by the West Los Angeles Democratic Club was “The Privatization of Public Schools.” About 80 Democratic activists and Los Angeles Unified School District teachers at Mar Vista’s St. Bede’s Episcopal Church heard teacher and former congressional candidate Marcy Winograd moderate a discussion of such hot-button issues as charter schools, co-locations, Parent Trigger and federal learning-standards-based programs such as No Child Left Behind.
Panelists included LAUSD Board member Steve Zimmer, United Teachers L.A./National Education Association Vice President M.J. Roberts, Crossroads School for the Arts & Sciences founder and charter school advocate Paul Cummins, middle school teacher Loren Scott, former middle school principal Marcia Haskin and LAUSD parent and education blogger Sara Roos.
The evening’s harshest words were reserved for LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy and Parent Trigger, the controversial law that allows 50 percent-plus-one of parents from an under-performing school to fire the staff and start over.