Putting Education Reform To The Test

Judge Says California Parents Can’t Unpull ‘Trigger’ Petition


Former California State Sen. Gloria Romero helped write the nation's first parent trigger law.

A judge has handed parents in a California desert town a major victory in their efforts to force changes at a failing elementary school.

The parents at Desert Trails Elementary in Adelanto are trying to become the first school in the nation to successfully use a ‘parent trigger’ law.

The law says parent can choose how to reform  a low-performing school if a majority of parents sign a petition. They can replace some or all of the staff, turn it into a charter school under private management or even shut it down.

A parent trigger bill was hotly contested in the Florida Legislature last spring. It was also known as the “Parent Empowerment in Education” bill.

The bill was opposed by teacher’s unions and the PTA.

Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich said, “It has everything to do with laying the groundwork for the hostile corporate takeover of public schools throughout Florida, a direct attack on public education.”

The bill was approved by the House, but it failed in the Senate on a 20-20 vote.

Parent trigger laws are being considered around the country, and the supporters — including former Gov. Jeb Bush — vow the bill will be back when lawmakers return next year.

They may want to consider what happened in the California case.

Parents at Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto signed a petition to convert the school to a charter. But the school board invalidated the signatures of parents who said they had changed their minds about supporting the charter initiative.

After so many signatures were rejected, supporters no longer could claim 50 percent of parents backed the petition.

So, the case went to court.

Here’s the most interesting part: A judge ruled the petition was indeed valid. He said the school board couldn’t reject it because the law doesn’t allow people who signed the petition to change their minds.

Once the signature is on the petition, the only way it can come off is if the school board determines it’s not valid. Changing one’s mind is not a valid reason, according to the judge.


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