Just a few weeks before the start of the school year, parent Cynthia Ramirez today joined California Congressman George Miller and Ben Austin, executive director of Parent Revolution, to celebrate National Parents Day (tomorrow) and to highlight efforts of parents across the country who used parent trigger law to improve their children’s schools.
“On the eve of National Parents Day, it is a pretty profound way to be opening the first school in American history that has been turned around by parents having power over the educational destiny of their own children,” said Austin, whose organization played a major role in the law’s passage.
Enacted in 2010, California’s trigger law allows a majority of parents at a failing school the right to replace the staff and faculty, convert the campus into a charter school or shutter the school.
“It’s important to note that just four years ago, this law didn’t exist. It was just a radical idea,” Austin said. “And over the course of those four years, parents have organized and passed this law in California…and passed this law in a number of states across the country to the point where almost 25 percent of American parents live in a state where there is a parent trigger.”
The first day of school on Monday at Desert Trails Elementary in San Bernardino County will be an emotional day for Ramirez.
Back in 2011, she and other parents got fed up with the substandard education their children were receiving there. The group of parents, some undocumented, used the trigger law to start a petition to initiate major changes at Desert Trails, a chronically low performing school.
Ramirez, a Desert Trails Parent Union lead coordinator, said her two children will be going back to a non-profit charter at Desert Trails.
“It was all worth it,” she said. “All the harassment and all the hard work was worth it. It was worth it just to see the kids faces when me and my husband walk into school with them on Monday.”
Three schools in the LA area have also undergone significant overhauls through parental use of the trigger law — 24th Street Elementary and Haddon Avenue Elementary in Los Angeles and Weigand Avenue Elementary in Watts.
Rep. Miller praised the work of Ramirez and Parent Revolution.
“Parent Revolution and the parent trigger law in California and in other states finally gives parents an entry point in which they can engage in the discussion about the quality of their children’s education in a failing school, and why that school is failing year after year,” said Miller, the senior Democrat on the U.S. House education committee. “They’re holding people accountable. And it’s really exciting to see that kind of information and power put back into the hands of parent.”
Austin said the trigger laws are increasingly popular across the country “in the face of some of the most intense and powerful opposition in America.” Indeed, the Los Angeles teachers union has argued strongly against it.
At a school board hearing in June, Warren Fletcher, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, described California’s version as “a system based on hatred that hurts children.”