Irony In Parent Trigger’s California Ruling: A Disempowering of Parents


Yesterday’s odd ruling by a California judge which paved the way for the nation’s first parent trigger to actually occur is based on one startling reality. Explains Parents Across America  (PAA) founder Caroline Grannan:

The parent trigger, an idea presented by the voices of corporate education “reform” as parent empowerment, won a round in court this week. Ironically, the court came down firmly in favor of disempowering parents, as the parent trigger’s sponsors had requested.

The ruling by a California Superior Court judge decreed that parents who have signed a parent trigger petition do not have the right to change their minds and may not rescind their signatures. The ruling cast the future of the targeted school, Desert Trails in Adelanto, in Southern California’s high desert, into confusion. Charter operators will now be invited to bid for the school, even though Desert Trails parents on both sides of the controversy say they don’t want the school to become a charter — disempowering them even further.

Parent Revolution – the corporate entity which Grannan inferences – pulled out all the stops in their second California effort. Their first Compton effort ended up in court, too. In Adelanto they rented a house a few yards from the school, bought shirts for parents, used divisive and inflammatory rhetorical tools and hoodwinked parents by having them sign two petitions – one for strict parent takeover, and one for a charter school conversion. And, oh yeah: constantly threatened any and all with lawsuits.

The parents who signed the petitions preferred the first option by a wide margin. After a significant number of signatures couldn’t be verified by the district and 97 parents changed their mind after realizing they’d been misled by Parent Revolution, the operative petition that emerged was the charter school option. A judge’s ruling delivered for the charter school-funded mob. Does Parent Revolution boss, Ben Austin, reveal what the agenda was all along in a story by Reuters reporter Stephanie Simon?

Ben Austin, who helped organize the trigger campaign through a nonprofit group called Parent Revolution, said parents would immediately begin soliciting proposals from private management companies interested in running Desert Trails as a charter school.

Back to the ruling. This from PAA’s Grannan:

The judge’s ruling appears to contradict language in the “Final Statement of Reasons” on the Parent Empowerment Act that states, “Nothing in these  regulations precludes a parent/guardian from withdrawing his/her  signature from a petition at any time,” according to the Victorville Daily Press, the local daily newspaper.

While Parent Revolution continues its end zone dance, it’s obviously appeal time. In addition to Grannan’s points there’s another. The ruling appears to dismiss the local school board as custodians of the signatory process. If not them, who? The controversy demonstrates that signatures need to be verified. A large number of charter school cheerleaders across the nation whom are republicans are  defensiby advocating for tighter voter registration guidelines. Do they not want the same for a petition which would direct taxpayer dollars?

Parent Trigger was debated in Florida this past spring. Parent Revolution operatives were paraded around Tallahassee twice by careful shepparding from Jeb Bush’s education policy chief  Patricia Levesque. Such controversy that occurred at the hands of Parent Revolution  in  California was brushed aside by Miami state Senator Anitere Flores as not possible during hearings. But a bold smackdown of Parent Revolution’s Shirley Ford was  ironically delivered by another republican senator. This from my March post on Parent Trigger’s unprecedented Saturday hearing I watched on the Florida Channel:

Controversial advocacy group, Parent Revolution flew in two operatives for testimony. The first, Michael Trujillo, mentioned “reams and reams” of positive results but didn’t bring any with him. When pressed by Sen, Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, who’s also a school superintendent, evaded testifying as he was “just there to provide technical background on the legislation.”

Shirley Ford made her second appearance before the legislature and got into some pretty intense back and forth with Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Daytona Beach. Lynn, who was the lone republican who voted against the bill, tied Ford up with a question about vouchers. While Ford couldn’t defend her ambivalence to vouchers, she appeared to apply the race card in her challenge to Democrat opponents of the bill

Parent Trigger died in the Senate after a 20-20 tie.

It will be useful to continue to follow events in Adelanto as  Floridians will be asked to accept parent trigger legislation again in next March’s legislative session. Even legislators who supported trigger legislation last time now see that serious divisive flaws exist in its implementation and don’t want an Adelanto circus repeated in their districts. Nevermind the fact that parents aren’t really empowered nor do they really have choice.

About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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7 Responses to Irony In Parent Trigger’s California Ruling: A Disempowering of Parents

  1. CarolineSF says:

    Just to emphasize how false Michael Trujillo’s testimony was (based on this account; I wasn’t there) — as you say, there are zero successful parent triggers, anywhere. There have been two attempts; both exploded into chaos, controversy and divisiveness — and clearly huge legal bills for cash-strapped school districts, too. So contrary to “reams and reams” of evidence of positive results, there is zero evidence of positive results. I hope it’s clear to the Florida legislators next time around that they were being lied to. Even ultra-right legislators listening to testimony from a right-wing, pro-privatization, union-busting operation (cleverly dressed up in liberal decorations) surely don’t appreciate having lies lobbed directly at them.

    • Bob Sikes says:

      A legislator/educator was about to unravel him when he rane out of time during testimony….

      • Jason Flom says:

        I testified immediately after Michael and referenced the actual “reams and reams” of anecdotal data highlighting the divisiveness of the parent trigger efforts underway in CA. To be clear though, both of us testified after the official end of the committee meeting and after votes had been cast that sent the bill to the floor. Fortunately, it died in a tie. We’ll just have to stay on top of the next effort in 2013. Keep up the good work, Bob.

      • Bob Sikes says:

        Jason: Thanks for taking the time to comment. Your Saturday testimony meant alot as evdenced by Don Gaetz’ “I sure wound you up, didn’t I?” I was astonished when Michael Tejeda used “reams and reams” and thought that Bill Montford was about to break him. But Tejeda’s misrepresentation of data like that is further evidence that Parent Revoluton does not operate in an above board manner. Its fair to say that they are exploiting the understandable intentions of parents to make rain for their corporate paymasters.

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