Daily Breeze Editorial | http://bit.ly/hMVsLp
12/18/2010 - The tools to transform public education in California have been put into the hands of parents. What they do with them, next year especially, will dictate the future of education in California.
This month, in particular, has been a bit of a watershed for parent empowerment. It was the month in which the first use of the new Parent Trigger Law occurred in an elementary school in Compton. This law allows parents to organize to force changes - small or big - if their neighborhood schools are failing their children.
It was the month in which members of the LAUSD school board proposed the district craft a plan to encourage and reward parent engagement in a district that has effectively shut parents out.
It was the month that the second, and perhaps most important, round of Los Angeles Unified's groundbreaking School Choice Program's collected opening bids from groups that want to take control of failing schools.
Parents can have tremendous power to influence which new operators are picked to run the 13 schools open for new management.
In many ways, parents are being handed the reigns of power and the possibility to transform education for their kids and those not even born yet. Hopefully, they will use their power well - and wisely.
To be sure, there are many entrenched groups trying to influence parents - some with sincerity, others with threats. Parents in Compton are experiencing that firsthand, as they find themselves
in the middle of a reform battle that could well decide the fate of the state.
Compton's McKinley Elementary School was picked for the first use of the parent trigger because it is among the the absolutely worst-performing schools in the state. Parents don't have much to lose by throwing out the current bureaucracy and seeking a charter school.
Because so much is riding on the first use of the Parent Trigger Law, which is so new that even its regulations aren't final yet, the movement is being closely watched across the nation. And what they are seeing is a brutal fight. A necessary majority of parents signed the parent trigger petitions, but there seems to be a coordinated attack against it by teachers and possibly the Compton Unified School District. Some parents say they were confronted by angry and abusive teachers in front of their kids. However, others claim they were misled by the Parent Revolution organizers. A few parents - though not yet enough to stop the effort - have rescinded their signatures on the petitions. But if the parents in Compton can't hold strong until early next year, more parents, under fire, might fold.
How the Compton battle is resolved could well determine the future of this one tool of empowerment. If other parents see the effort to transform McKinley fail, it might discourage any future efforts, in California and beyond.
Parents, more than anyone, have a stake in the quality of education. If they can stand tall against the forces that would shut them up, they can and will affect the future of education in California.