Education Opinion

The Itchy Parent Trigger Finger

By Walt Gardner — May 27, 2013 2 min read
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Originally embraced as a way of empowering parents, California’s Parent Trigger Law has been hijacked by an organization more interested in advancing its own interests. The non-profit Parent Revolution, which calls itself a grassroots operation, was instrumental in getting the law passed in 2010. Ever since, the law and the organization have been controversial. I’ll confine my remarks to California, but similar legislation has been enacted in Texas and Mississippi and is under consideration in at least three other states.

The latest evidence comes from Weigand Avenue Elementary School in the Watts section of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Unlike what took place at McKinley Elementary School in Compton and at Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, a principal who won praise from the district’s superintendent for turning around a troubled school is being ousted after 53 percent of parents signed a petition calling for her removal. Her sin was being inaccessible and rude (“Popular principal’s dismissal leaves a South L.A. school divided,” Los Angeles Times, May 25). In a show of support, 21 of 22 teachers requested transfers to other schools.

I first expressed caution about the Parent Trigger Law on Nov, 17, 2010 (“No Bull’s Eye for Parent Trigger Law”). Since then, my view has hardened because of the way Parent Revolution operates. Its methods are at the very least unconventional. Desert Trails Elementary School is the best example. The charter petition organized by Parent Revolution was so confusing to parents that many wanted to rescind their signatures but were prevented by the court. Now the group is being accused of offering to pay parents to promote the movement nationwide (“Parent trigger leader alleges organizers promised parents pay,” San Bernardino Sun, May 24).

I realize that promises and money are part of every campaign in a democracy. But there is a line that Parent Revolution has crossed in its aggressive tactics. Rather than being a resource for disaffected parents, it is a provocateur. The Walton Family Foundation alone has poured more than $6.3 million into Parent Revolution, leading me to doubt the organization’s independence (“Public Schools, Private Agendas: Parent Revolution,” Truth-Out, Apr. 11). If the intent of the Parent Trigger Law is to help parents get a better education for their children, it needs to be rewritten to provide safeguards against what has taken place in California. As it now stands, the law is doing more harm than good.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.