In the Washington Post today, lame-duck Governor Schwarzenegger boasts about having supported and signed into law the closely-watched “Parent Trigger,” which allows a majority of a school’s parents to initiate several procedures to turn around a failing public school.
But he seems not to have read the newspapers in his own state of California. The recent controversy surrounding the process to collect petition signatures from parents at McKinley Elementary in South Los Angeles has only intensified.
In the past two days, the California State Board of Education decided to open for public comment a temporary set of regulations about implementation of the law.
It also asked the State Attorney General’s office to investigate misconduct by those gathering signatures for the petition, a self-described education reform advocacy group, Parent Revolution, who shepherded parents through the process.
The group has attracted claims of bias for its ties to Green Dot Charter. The executive director of Parent Revolution is Ben Austin, a lobbyist who pushed for the “Parent Trigger” law’s passage in the California legislature.
Austin is also currently a California State Board of Education member. A member of the very body which has called for review of his group’s signature-gathering practices.
Some parents have deep misigivings about how they were presented the petition and what the results would be.
From an LA Times report: “One parent said she thought she was signing a petition to beautify the school while PTA President Cynthia Martinez complained she was not allowed access to all Parent Revolution gatherings.”
The same story shows pro-charter petition-signing parents, 62% of those with children at the school, making claims that they’ve been subjected to threatening and false information from McKinley teachers in order to retract their signatures.
One case involves a teacher who misled a parent and said that the charter school taking over McKinley would not serve special needs children. However, the law specifically mandates that any charter management organization must serve–without restriction–the same students of the school it took over.
Though divided by their stand on the petition, all parents with children at the school agree that McKinley’s bottom 10% ratings on measures of student learning needed urgent attention years ago.
Now, a series of town hall meetings held by the Compton Unified School District will help the parents decide if advocacy groups with their own agenda and misleading tactics used that sense of urgency to rush parents into a shallow consensus.
This was originally posted on Care2.com, December 16, 2010.