Outside group challenging LAUSD’s view of ‘Parent Trigger’

Gloria Romero, CA State Senator

Gloria Romero

* UPDATED

Parent Revolution, an organization that helps parents petition for change at poor-performing schools, is disputing an LA Unified legal opinion that says the state law that gives parents that right is invalid this year.

The conflict came to light in an LA Times story this morning, citing an opinion from a district lawyer sent to Gloria Romero, the former California lawmaker who wrote the 2010 “Parent Trigger” law.

Romero, who founded the California Center for Parent Empowerment last year, said in an interview this morning she felt “angry and betrayed” by a legal decision that was reached last fall by the district but not shared with her until she learned about it three weeks ago.

“I’m not saying LAUSD is wrong on the legal interpretation; I just don’t know, and that’s why I’m seeking another legal interpretation from the state,” she said, “But LAUSD’s decision violates the spirit and intent of the law.”

“What I want to know,” she added, “is why did they keep this quiet all this time.”

The district’s opinion stems from a Federal waiver granted LA Unified and seven other California school districts, allowing them to to create their own metrics for academic performance in the temporary absence of statewide standards — measures used to determine whether a school is failing.

LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy said in an interview that the metrics used by LA Unified and the other districts granted the waiver still give parents the right to use the Parent Trigger law, so long as a school has been deemed in need of improvement for two consecutive years, ending with the 2014-2015 school year.

Under the waiver, he said, “We are completely aligned with the state law.”

California’s previous statewide standards were set aside for two years — 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 — while districts phase in the Common Core State Standards curriculum.

Romero said the district’s position was clarified in a letter she had requested and finally received two days ago from Kathleen Collins, a district lawyer.

Parent Revolution called the district’s legal interpretation “laughable,” insisting that a district has overridden state law. “The only entities that are capable of altering or invalidating California’s Parent Empowerment Act are the state legislature or a judge. Neither has done so,” the group said.

Parent Revolution also cited a letter to Deasy from the Department of Education in Washington, which granted the waiver, that says neither the federal government nor any other entity can override a state law.

In her Nov. 22 letter (starts on page 6), Assistant Secretary of Education Deborah Delisle wrote, “The requirements to determine whether schools have made adequate yearly progress (AYP) and to identify schools for improvement, corrective action and restructuring have not been waived, and any State laws or regulations, including those related to AYP or school improvement status, are not affected by the waivers granted to your district.”

Romero said the confluence of federal law, state law and a district decision might ultimately lead to a lawsuit to clarify who has the ultimate authority in the matter. Such a lawsuit would require plaintiffs, presumably parents whose efforts to use the Parent Trigger law would be blocked by the district.

Gabe Rose, a spokesman for Parent Revolution, said his organization is currently working with several groups of parents who are “considering options for improving their children’s schools, including the use of Parent Trigger.”


* Adds explanation from LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy