LA Unified has rejected a parent petition to take over a failing elementary school in South Central Los Angeles, reversing district policy and essentially asserting that no California school qualifies under the state “parent trigger” law.
Parents of 20th Street Elementary School were informed of the district’s rejection in a letter late Saturday, the last day the district had to notify the parents. They had hoped to be able to take over the school and possibly create a charter through the state’s Parent Empowerment Act, or parent trigger, which has been used twice to help under-performing LA Unified schools.
“We are so disappointed, all the parents are really upset,” said Guadalupe Aragon, one of the parents who started the petition drive. “We just want our children to have the same opportunities to get to college that other children in the district have, and this was our only way to do it. We are very angry.”
After two years of trying to get changes at the school, and dropping the threatened trigger by the parents at least once, the 20th Street Parents Union filed again last month to take over the school with 57 percent of the families (the parents of 342 students) signing a petition.
“This is shameful,” said former California state senator Gloria Romero, who authored the law, after reading the district’s letter. “They have a brand new superintendent and she is harking to the past, in a sense. Where is the leadership? It’s supposed to be a new game with LA being unified. This does not bode well for the spirit of the law.”
The law was passed in 2010 and used at two LA Unified schools in 2013. That year, statewide tests were suspended in anticipation of computerized tests based on the Common Core State Standards. The following year former Superintendent John Deasy argued that the district was exempt, for one year, from the parent trigger by a federal waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law that allowed LA Unified and seven other California school districts to create their own metrics for academic performance in the temporary absence of statewide standards.
One of the first things interim Superintendent Ramon Cortines did when he took over was to reverse Deasy’s edict and lift the ban on parent triggers. King worked under both Deasy and Cortines.
King and her staff met with parents only five days before the letter was sent out rejecting their petition. The meeting last Monday, held at district headquarters, was called by King and also attended by representatives of Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, which was brought in by the district to see if it might be a solution for the parents.
Joan Sullivan, CEO for Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, said she was invited to attend the meeting at the district to offer some sort of solution for 20th Street. Partnership was offering a hybrid of a charter and traditional school as an option, which they have done in 17 schools over the past eight years in the South Central LA area.
“Parents are asking for a choice, and we could offer a good option,” said Sullivan said. “We take on whole schools and support them with the current student body and most of the staff and use the parent involvement and voice.”
At last week’s meeting, the district “never told us that our school may not be eligible or that there was any problem with our petition,” Aragon said.