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Parent Trigger Fails Again

“Parents Fail in Bid to Turn California School into a Charter”
by Stephanie Banchero
Wall Street Journal
February 22, 2012

School-district officials in a Southern California town rejected an attempt by parents to convert their low-performing elementary school into a charter school, the second time an effort to use California’s new “Parent Trigger” law has been blocked.

A group of parents of students at Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, Calif., turned in a petition last month that they said had the signatures of nearly 70% of the school’s parents. Under the state’s Parent Trigger law, passed in 2010, parents can force a district to close a school, convert it to a charter-—a public school run by a nongovernment group—or replace the principal and the teachers if at least 50% of the parents sign a petition. Similar legislation was passed in Texas and Mississippi last year and is being considered in other states.

During a school-board meeting Tuesday night in Adelanto, district officials said that 97 parents had withdrawn their signatures because the parents said they were duped into signing the petition or misunderstood its intent. This left the group about a dozen names short of the bar.

The school board, by law, has given the parents 60 days to try to verify the names of at least 50% of the parents at the 650-student school. The parents say they will try again.

The effort in Adelanto was only the second time parents had tried to take advantage of the California law. A petition initiated last year by parents in Compton has been tied up in a lengthy court battle with the school district.

Teachers unions have generally opposed the trigger laws, arguing that troubled schools need more resources rather than sweeping staff changes or closing. Parents leading the Adelanto petition have said that their calls for change in Desert Trails went unheeded for years. School district officials said some of the overhauls the parents sought would be costly and difficult to implement.