Washington Post reporter Lyndsey Layton and a photographer made the trip to Adelanto, California for a first hand look at the hotly contested parent trigger petition battle going on there. Layton’s reporting reveals details of the realities that exist at Desert Trails Elementary and the astonishing lengths that charter school advocacy group Parent Revolution go to achieve their objectives.
…..(parents) sought help from Parent Revolution. The group, founded by a charter school entrepreneur, sent professional organizers to Adelanto to give the parents a crash course in the law, signature gathering, educational policy and even media handling.
Parent Revolution rented a house near the elementary school and converted it into a nerve center for the pro-trigger parents, who spend afternoons there stamping envelopes, making phone calls and plotting strategy.
Parent Revolution’s rental of a house near the school as a “nerve center” to “plot strategy” couldn’t be less provocative. Nor more unseemly. Establishing such a location represents a symbol that intends to divide. Doing so near a place where children go to school – and where children play afterwards – is a contradiction of the kind that ed reform mantras like “choice” and “changing the status quo” don’t come close to justifying.
Layton offered more facts from the ground that Parent Revolution’s well paid organizers didn’t tell Florida legislators in their lobbying efforts.
In Adelanto, the 666 children who attend Desert Trails are mostly black and Latino, and nearly all meet the federal definition of poor. The school lacks a full-time nurse, a guidance counselor and a psychologist. About one in four students was suspended last year, nearly twice the district average. Desert Trails has had three principals in the past five years
The parents want preschool classes, a longer school day, a computer lab, every teacher to have a master’s degree, a full-time librarian and clean, working restrooms, among other things.
The district can’t afford those demands, said Superintendent Darin Brawley, adding that state education funding is down 20 percent this year. “There’s no way we could do all those things at Desert Trails without making cuts elsewhere, from other students in the district,” he said.
The presence of the sort of wide-spread poverty that exists at Desert Trails often translates to poor test scores and eventually a “failing school” label. Parent Revolution’s promise to parents of Desert Trails that some sort of trigger change could somehow overcome the burdens of poverty and clear budget constraints by the local district is breathtakingly irresponsible.
Florida’s parent trigger bill doesn’t protect against paid outsiders from parachuting it to set up a command center next to a school it wants to target for a takeover by a charter school operator. Are Florida legislators telling voters they don’t mind if the Adelanto-Parent Revolution scenario is repeated across the state?