NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

California's Parent Revolution

December 9, 2010

In Compton, California, more than 260 parents will pull the first ever "parent trigger" in a bid to transform a failing public school, reports the Wall Street Journal.

  • Under a California law passed in January, parents can trigger a change in governance at some 1,300 schools that have failed to make "adequate yearly progress" for four consecutive years.
  • If at least 51 percent of the parents sign a petition, they can shut the school down, shake up its administration or invite a charter operator to take over.
  • Charters that open as a result of parent triggers must accept all students from the original school.

Compton's McKinley Elementary School has made adequate progress only once since 2003, and it is in the bottom 10 percent of schools statewide and when compared to schools with students of similar backgrounds.

More than 60 percent of McKinley parents have signed the petition to free the school from the Compton Unified bureaucracy and install charter school operator Celerity Educational Group to run it instead, says the Journal.

Celerity already runs three Los Angeles-area charters that serve students similar to those at McKinley with far greater success.

  • In 2009, one Celerity school was in the 40th percentile statewide and in the 90th compared to schools with similar demographics.
  • Another was in the 50th percentile statewide and in the top 10 percent compared to its peers.

The law says that the district must comply with a petition unless it "makes a finding in writing stating the reason it cannot."  Since Celerity is ready and waiting to take over McKinley, the district has no legitimate reason not to facilitate the switch.

The biggest obstacle to education reform has long been overcoming the inertial forces of unionized bureaucracy.  Parent trigger is a revolutionary shortcut, and bravo to the parents in Compton for making the leap, says the Journal.

Source: "California's Parent Revolution," Wall Street Journal, December 7, 2010.

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