Parent Trigger Opponent Proposes Real Common Ground on Education Reform

Carlos Mendoza served with distinction and was wounded on the front line of education reform. As president of the California school board tasked with dealing with a Parent Trigger application in tiny Adelanto, Mendoza was the first to experience the full force of the charter school industry backed by billionaire bucks.

The paid organizers of Parent Revolution rented a home near Desert Trail Elementary School and kept agitating parents for signatures on three different petitions until the got the number they wanted. California law mandated the local school board  verify the signatures. Parent Revolution didn’t like the actions  Mendoza’s board took on the signatures and those involving the petition and filed a lawsuit. With unlimited funding, a small town school board was no match. Parent Revolution got their charter school. Mendoza was later voted off the board.

Mendoza read about this year’s legislative battle over Parent Trigger in Florida and left this comment in StateImpact:

How quickly we forget.

Parent trigger laws are not what you think. In Adelanto, parents wanted to remove their names from the petition because they felt mislead by the signature process strategy of signing two petitions. I was the board president when Parent Revolution – a lobbyist group – successfully bullied our small district in California with lawsuits to implement the Parent Trigger Law.

The judge ruled that the district could not allow parents to change their minds- even if they felt mislead. Parent Revolution is my biggest concern with the Parent Trigger Law. The Parent Empowerment Act of 2010 in California sounds great, but it is not a grassroots movement. Parent Trigger Laws are not coming from grassroots or a parent movement – they are coming from deep pocket lobbyists. These laws create division in the community to allow take over of schools. Parent Revolution has big backers and uses that might to prop up Parent Trigger. Without Parent Revolution – there would be no Parent Trigger. Privatizing public schools with taxpayer money is not the solution to what ails our school systems.

With over twenty years experience as an educator, I have come to the conclusion that the free market private sector, without government funding, is where the solution will come from. I am promoting a radical 21st century change in education. What about you? http://coachlerningacademies.m……

After I wrote about Mendoza’s comment, he sent me this follow-up. He graciously gave me permission to print it.

Thanks for quoting me accurately. Just to clarify:  I do not support privatizing public schools. The management of public schools should not be handed over to private companies. If they were any good they wouldn’t need to hijack public schools to get publicly funded tuition. I’m just at the point where I know that the creativity and innovation needed to bring education into the 21st century will not come from the entrenched bureaucracy of public education. The Parent Trigger invasion is an example. The district worked with the parents and teacher union to bring reforms to Desert Trails. The reforms included adding instructional minutes to the school day, a new curriculum, staff development, an infusion of technology, a memorandum of understanding with the teacher union, signed pledges by teachers to support these reforms, a school site coach to support the reforms, an elected council to oversee the reforms, and of course, an excellent principal to make it happen. In short, what the parents wanted. Politics and the law threw all that away to bring a charter that only a minority group of parents were even eligible to vote for. I am convinced that only the private sector without public funds and grants from corporate reformers will provide an alternative education that is re-imagined for the century we live in.

Mendoza’s tells a cautionary tale that Florida’s republican legislators should hear. An obviously well-financed Parent Revolution will be back to testify to the legislature on Parent Trigger. There isn’t anyone to pay for Mendoza’s travel, and  I’m sure the hacks at Jeb Bush’s foundations are relieved.

But Mendoza is taking the road less traveled on education reform. He’s offering real compromise with new ideas. If the same billionaires who fund Parent Revolution and bankroll education privatization through their philanthropic arms were sincere in their efforts to improve the lives of the nation’s children, a guy like Mendoza would have a seat at the table.


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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