Here’s some big news you may have missed: Fed up with the long record of failure at their elementary school, parents in Adelanto, Calif., recently became the first in the nation to pull the “parent trigger” and wrest control of the school from the local board of education.
A judge in California last month blocked the school board’s efforts to invalidate a parent petition drive. The parents will take over Desert Trails Elementary. They’re soliciting bids from charter school operators to run their school. They plan to institute a longer school day and other reforms.
This is enormously important. Desert Trails may turn out to be the pioneer in a movement to give power to parents to break the public education status quo.
Desert Trails had fallen short of state standards for six consecutive years. Seven in 10 of its sixth-graders were not proficient in English or math. So 466 Desert Trail parents signed a petition, under California’s trigger law, to take control of the school. That’s 70 percent of the parents, far more than a simple majority the law requires.
The school board furiously fought the parents, rejecting scores of parent signatures on legal technicalities. That’s how this ended up in court.
San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Steve Malone cleared the way for parents to shake up Desert Trails. Malone wisely ruled that school officials can’t disregard a trigger drive just “because in their judgment, converting the school into a charter school is unwise, inappropriate or unpopular with district employees or classroom teachers.”
Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana have joined California in passing trigger laws. Several other states are considering proposals. And Illinois? Hardly a peep.
When he ran for mayor, Rahm Emanuel championed a parent trigger law for Chicago. He said parents should have the power to shut down a poorly performing school, bring in new administrators and teachers and adopt a charter school or other new model.
“Giving parents this power would encourage them to play a larger role in their children’s education, and with greater power would come greater responsibility,” Emanuel said.
We’d like to remind the mayor and lawmakers in Springfield of this powerful idea to shake up the status quo at failing schools. We’d like to see this in state law as an option for all parents.
We haven’t heard Emanuel talk much about this lately. He’s had his hands full playing defense in negotiations over a new Chicago Teachers Union contract. Among other demands, the CTU wants the Chicago Public Schools to redirect $76 million planned for charter school expansion next year. That money would be used to open nine new schools with 2,765 seats and add 1,910 seats to existing charter schools.
Charters are expanding to meet strong demand from students and parents.
Every parent on a Chicago charter waiting list wants exactly the same thing as Cynthia Ramirez, whose third-grade daughter attends Desert Trails.
Ramirez spoke at a news conference after the court decision. She said it gave her hope that her child would now get the education she needed to attend college, the Associated Press reported.
“It’s our kids,” Ramirez said. “We can’t back down.”