Wednesday, July 13, 2011

School Choice Lives in California: Ed Board Approves "Parent Trigger" Rules

We're not in the habit of thinking fondly of Arnold Schwarzenegger's time as Governor, but we do have to give the Kindergarten Cop credit where it's due. In 2009, Schwarzenegger did a very good thing for California by signing the so-called "parent trigger" into law. This law allows parents of children in failing public schools to petition school districts for radical reforms, including sweeping changes in teachers, staff, and curricula, closure, and conversion to a charter school. Late last year, McKinley Elementary in Compton was the scene of the first attempt to use the parent trigger. In December, 61% of McKinley parents signed a petition to convert the school, one of the worst in the state, to a charter school. Unsurprisingly, they ran into a buzzsaw of opposition from the local teachers' union, which urged the Compton Unified School District to oppose the petition on the grounds that some of its signatures were invalid. While the law did not offer guidance as to the specific structure of trigger petitions, the district argued first that the signatures needed to be verified with a photo ID and an in-person interview; when this was rejected by a judge, they argued that the signatures needed to be dated. Unfortunately for the McKinley parents, Superior Court Judge Anthony Mohr accepted this line of reasoning, and in late May invalidated the petition.

Fortunately, developments in Sacramento today suggest that the ordeal of the McKinley parents is unlikely to be repeated, as the state Board of Education has given its approval to a set of rules that outline how the parent trigger will be implemented. Apparently resting on its laurels after being showered with blessings by Jerry Brown and the Legislature's Democrats, the California Teachers Association was mostly on the losing end here. Its effort to require that teachers approve a conversion to a charter school was rejected by the Board. More importantly for the McKinley parents, the state Department of Education will be required to post a sample petition on its website, and to provide clear explanations of what information must be included in petitions. All in all, a good day for parents in a state with very, very bad schools.

No comments:

Post a Comment