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Reform LAUSD: Don’t Let Them Pull the Trigger on the ‘Parent Trigger’

Mayor Villaraigosa boasted today on Twitter that he’s hired a new education czar Joan Sullivan who “in 2003 raised the money to found the Bronx Academy of Letters High School, and instituted parent engagement programs…That got 80 % parent turnout at school events.”

Let us now praise what is praiseworthy about the mayor these days: His commitment to parent empowerment.

Having floundered in efforts to reform LAUSD, the mayor last summer got aboard the Parent Revolution, the non-profit led by former Deputy Mayor Ben Austin, to organize families to spearhead the takeover of failing schools from the bureaucrats and educators who have failed their children for so long.

Whether the mayor was just playing more politics with the idea that parents should have direct power over the schools or really meant it is now being tested in Sacramento.

Last Thursday, the state Senate passed by a single vote legislation to implement President Obama’s “Race to the Top” education reform policies and make California eligible for $700 million in badly-needed aid to our underfunded schools. 

Senate President Pro Tem Darrel Steinberg and Sen. Gloria Romero were instrumental in the getting the measure passed with a key a provision backed by the Parent Revolution – the so-called “parent trigger.”

The parent trigger would force school districts to close or drastically revamp badly failing schools – the largest number of them in LA – or allow children to transfer to another district when 51 percent of parents at any school sign petitions.

Needless to say, the education establishment is appalled at the idea and the California Teachers Association is pulling out all stops to have it deleted from the Assembly version that comes up for a vote early next year.

There is a telling irony in the politics over the parent trigger.

Republicans, often criticized as elitist and anti-democratic, are all for giving parents so much power.

Democrats, who like to portray themselves as the party of the people, are pretty solidly standing with the CTA, one of Sacramento’s biggest spending and most powerful lobbyist groups.

Negotiations now under way with a deadline of Christmas Eve to come up with a final Assembly bill and unless some Democratic leaders show the same courage as Steinberg and Romero showed in the Senate, the measure will be gutted of its most important reform.

The mayor boasts often about how much clout he’s got and how valuable are his trips to Washington and Sacramento – if not South Africa, Iceland and Copenhagen – in getting benefits for LA.

Here is his chance to shine by pressuring his friends in the Assembly. And it’s your chance to let our Assembly members know you believe in people power and the right of parents to decide what’s best for their children.

Don’t let them pull the trigger on the parent trigger.

Contact these key Assembly members by email at this website or by telephone at:

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8 Responses to Reform LAUSD: Don’t Let Them Pull the Trigger on the ‘Parent Trigger’

  1. Anonymous says:

    Los Angeles is deteriorated. the news is that
    the people of Los Angeles are starting to gain
    recognition that they are dissatisfied and want change. In 2010 we can break up the gang by voting against CD encumbents who are unsatisfactory and working for the gangs (union, pot dealers, developers, career bureaucrats)
    who have had it their way for entirely too long and need to be thrown out of office. The party is over. Teddy Howell

  2. I’m a little offended by the characterization of Republicans as elitist and anti-democratic.
    Republicans have been at the forefront of education reform for years especially fighting for parent choice and charter schools for example when the teacher union dominated Democratic party has fought such for decades and has only grudgingly come to the table in recent years.
    For sure, there are lots of good parent activists who happen to be Democrats and are good people so I don’t hold them responsible for their party leadership’s feet dragging and obstructionism on reform.
    That being said it’s been the GOP as a party that for a long time has supported giving parents more control over their children’s education, going back to the days of Ronald Reagan and before. It wasn’t until Bill Clinton that the Democrats started getting flexible on the issue.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Is it just me, or is this great satire:
    A well-meaning but bumbling parent decides to reform the schools from the inside by running for the Board of Education, but washes out as a candidate because he either can’t get enough supporter signatures, or can’t prove that the ones he got were valid.
    So he changes gears and decides to reform from the outside by screwing the Board of Education with a board-bypassing “Parent Trigger” that is invoked only after, under his direction, supporters gather enough valid signatures.

  4. Newhaven says:

    Ben Austin is far from a “well-meaning but bumbling parent.” He’s a highly connected political operative for Green Dot, an organization wworking to wrest control of public schools from the Board of Education.
    Now, overthrowing the school board may be a worthy goal. But beware the those seeking power under the guise of being “parent advocates” and successful reformers.
    Austin’s bio on the Parent Revolution website indicates the following:
    Ben is looking forward to sending Fiona to their wonderful neighborhood elementary school, Warner; and is currently working on a Parent Revolution at their failing middle school, Emerson.
    And here is what the Parent Revolution promises: “If 51% of the parents at your school sign the petition demanding a better school, we will guarantee your child a great school, in your neighborhood, within three years.”
    Really? In three years? Hmmmm, let’s see what Green Dot’s track record is in guaranteeing “great schools.”
    Well, not so good according to this report, which examined the question and determined the following:
    But forget my opinion; we want data. So I looked up the most recent Academic Performance Index score for Emerson (Ralph Waldo Emerson Middle School, Los Angeles Unified). (The API is California’s accountability reporting system for school achievement; it ranks schools based on a compilation of standardized test scores into a score on a 200-1000 scale, with 800 and up viewed as excellent.)
    The 2008 API for “failing” Emerson is 701 – neither stellar nor disgraceful. SFUSD has some very highly regarded and sought-after schools with APIs well below 701.
    I thought I’d see how the schools Green Dot runs – which are hailed far and wide as successful nationwide models – compare. Turns out the API of the 11 Green Dot schools averages 678.64. Hmm.
    Four of Green Dot’s 12 schools have APIs far below Emerson’s 701:
    Animo Jackie Robinson 597
    Animo Justice 569
    Animo Ralph Bunche 636
    Animo Watts 614
    Two more of Green Dot’s “successful” schools have APIs of 705 (Animo Film & Theater and Animo South Los Angeles), which hardly leaves “failing” Emerson in the dust either. (All the listed Green Dot schools are in L.A. Unified.)
    The rest of the Green Dot schools range from 715 to 749. (This tally excludes Locke, the highly publicized Watts high school newly taken over by Green Dot, which doesn’t yet have test scores from the Green Dot era.)
    The Parent Revolution website warns parents not to trust “bureacrats, politicians and special interests” who “make promises but can’t deliver.”
    That’s one thing we can agree on, even if Ben and his cohorts can’t see themselves in that mirror….

  5. Anonymous says:

    Another view of the revolution at Emerson Middle School: Code Words and Green Dot’s Pandering to Westside Racism

  6. Anonymous says:

    I finally sat down and read your essay and then emailed Audra Strickland (37th) that I support
    parent participation in our LA school. Teddy

  7. Lydia says:

    Letter sent to State Assembly Members
    (Attachment not included in post)
    December 29, 2009
    To Whom It May Concern,
    I am sending you the “Parent Trigger” Information,
    for the ” Race to the Top.”The Parent Trigger would allow Parents, that are unhappy with their children’s school, to force the school to reform, by collecting 50% of the Parents to sign Petitions. If The District ( such as L.A.U.S.D. ), does not reform the school, then it would be given to a Charter school operator.
    Our Community started gathering Petitions to reform our Middle School. It has been Program Improvement since 1987.
    Ramon Cortines, The LAUSD Superintendent, in a show of poor Leadership changed the rules for Signature Collection by requiring 50% of every feeder school including Pre-schools, parents to sign. Many of the LAUSD students are bussed into our school, meaning, it will be impossible to get those signatures.
    We need to have the “Parent Trigger,” remain in the “Race to the Top,” Legislation.
    If the Parents had the power to change their schools, The L.A.U.S.D. may not have to be broken up by The State Legislator.
    I do plan on coming to Sacramento for the vote.
    Thank You, for your help.
    Lydia Grant
    LAUSD Parent

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