Sunday, April 28, 2013

AALA explains it all for you: THE PARENT TRIGGER LAW, PARTS I & II

From the AALA Update, Weeks of April 22, 2013 and April 29, 2013


On January 7, 2010, Governor Brown signed into law SBX4, Public Schools: Race to the Top, authored by then Senator Gloria Romero, with assistance from Senators Elaine Alquist (Santa Clara County), Bob Huff (LA, Orange, San Bernardino counties) and Mark Wyland (Orange, San Diego counties). It consisted of two major components to amend the California Education Code. The first component established the Open Enrollment Act which enabled pupils enrolled in low-achieving schools to attend another school; the second arm of the law allowed parents to require a district to implement one of the reforms listed in the Race to the Top program under specific conditions. This portion of the new law was initially called “parent empowerment” by its author, but is now known as the “parent trigger” law. California was the first state to pass this type of law and as of March 2013, at least 24 other states have considered it and six more have actually enacted some version of it. Those states are Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio (pilot program in the Columbus School District) and Texas. California is the only state that has actually had a school be the subject of a parent-trigger petition.

The parent trigger policy, which was recently enacted at LAUSD’s 24th Street School, gives parents the ability to intervene in their child's school if it is performing poorly. In California, that is defined as one that fails to make adequate yearly progress for 3 consecutive years, has an API of less than 800 and has been in ‘corrective action’ status under NCLB for at least one year. Any combination of at least 50.1 percent of the parents of children currently attending the school or those with children who will matriculate to the school must sign a petition requesting that the school district implement one of the school interventions identified in the Race to the Top legislation. Once accepted by the school district, only the parents who signed the original petition vote on the type of intervention to be used. The four types of intervention models and the required activities are outlined below.


a. Replace the principal

b. Replace the staffrehiring no more than 50 percent

c. Implement strategies to retain staff

d. Provide ongoing, high-quality, job-embedded professional development

e. Adopt a new governance structurei.e., report to a new “turnaround office” in the district

f. Use data to identify and implement a research-based instructional program

g. Promote continuous use of data to inform instruction

h. Increase learning time

i. Provide social-emotional and community supports for students


a. Convert the school to a charter school operator, a charter management organization (nonprofit) or an education management organization (for-profit).

b. The restart model must enroll any former student who wishes to attend.


a. Replace the principal

b. Use evaluation systems for teachers and administrators that use data on student growth as a significant factor

c. Reward staff who have increased student achievement and remove those who have not

d. Provide ongoing, high-quality, job-embedded professional development

e. Implement strategies to retain staff

f. Increase learning time

g. Provide social-emotional and community supports for students


a. Close the school and enroll the students in other schools in the district that are higher achieving and within reasonable proximity to the closed school.

b. The new school could be a charter or a district school that just opened and has no achievement data.



In last week’s Update we began sharing information on the parent trigger law that was recently used at 24th Street ES. This is the second article on a very hot topic.

The California parent trigger law has some unique components: (1) no more than 75 schools in the state can be subject to a parent petition (however, there is pending legislation that will increase that number); (2) parents must disclose any financial or organizing support they receive during the process; (3) parents cannot be paid by proponents of charter conversion; and (4) signature collectors must disclose if they are being paid. The National Conference of State Legislatures’ website,, provides a succinct summary of the views of those who support or oppose the parent trigger process:

Advocates argue that parents should have a more active role in how their child's school is managed. They also claim that the traditional procedures for turning around low performing schools are too slow and heavily influenced by political interests, not necessarily the students' interests. Supporters hope that the existence of a parent trigger law will encourage schools and districts to better communicate existing school improvements to parents in hopes of avoiding a parent petition.

Opponents claim that there are mechanisms already in place to intervene in low performing schools. They point to school accountability committees and local school boards as the existing means for parents to be involved in the operation of their child's school. They also worry that parents may not be aware of the changes low performing schools have already made such as hiring new administration and teachers. Some raise concerns that corporate charter school operators are using these laws to expand their business, an argument that some states look to address by prohibiting charter school operators from funding petition campaigns.

Former Senator Gloria Romero, who unsuccessfully ran for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, now heads the California chapter of Democrats for Education Reform, an advocacy group that supports school reform through increasing parental choice, tying student performance to teacher evaluations and changing how teachers are hired and fired. She says that the law empowers parents to become leaders and demand that bureaucrats do something about systemically failing schools and likens it to another civil rights movement. However, the parent trigger has received considerable opposition from organizations such as CTA and the California Democratic Party. In fact, delegates from the party recently passed a resolution condemning the activities of groups such as StudentsFirst (Michelle Rhee) and Democrats for Education Reform, saying that they are just fronts for Republicans and corporate interests.

Parents from Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, assisted/organized by an L.A. advocacy group called Parent Revolution (heavily funded by the Walton Foundation which, according to many educators, strongly supports privatization of schools and antiunion policies), were the first Californians to use the parent trigger law. After an 18-month legal battle, the Adelanto Elementary District School Board voted to approve LaVerne Elementary Preparatory Academy to take over the school. LaVerne is a charter school that operates in the nearby city of Hesperia and partners with the University of La Verne. All students and their siblings will be guaranteed spots at the new Desert Trails Preparatory Academy, which will open in Fall 2013, but every teacher and staff member will have to file an application if they want to continue to work there.

Parent Revolution attempted the same process at an elementary school in Compton last year, but was blocked by legal action initiated by the Compton School District.

Their third attempt, 24th Street ES in LAUSD, was successful and resulted in the use of the restart model which pairs a charter with the District. Approximately 60 percent of eligible parents signed the original petition; about half of those voted on the intervention plan which resulted in LAUSD operating the PK-4 portion of the school and a charter, Crown Prep, operating grades 5–8. In essence, of the parents who have children who attend the school or will matriculate to the school, about 30 percent made this critical decision, and only 25 percent actually wanted the LAUSD/Crown partnership. LAUSD is the first district to approve a parent trigger petition without a court challenge and also without verification of the procedures or the voting processes that were used. Parents at 24th Street School so far seemed to have encountered much less resistance from LAUSD than the first two parent trigger groups.

“Superintendent John Deasy has been unusually cooperative,” said Ben Boychuk, a Heartland Institute education policy advisor. He noted that LAUSD leadership is more receptive towards charter schools and Superintendent Deasy is much more inclined to embrace some of these reforms than the previous superintendents would have been. Members of Parent Revolution are currently courting parents at other District schools.

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