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Facts about the parent trigger

Susan Notes: Here's an important example of the work done by Parents Across America volunteers, while university folk write papers commissioned by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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Researched by Caroline Grannan, Parents Across America

(The endnotes are the best part)

  • There have been no successful parent triggers anywhere.(i)

  • Two parent triggers have been attempted, both in Southern California.(ii)

  • The organization that created the parent trigger, Parent Revolution, organized both of those parent trigger campaigns.(iii)

  • Parent Revolution has been inaccurately described as "grassroots" and as founded by concerned mothers. Actually, Parent Revolution was created by charter school operator Steve Barr, who founded the Green Dot charter school chain (iv). Parent Revolution has a $1 million annual budget and 10 full-time staff members. Its funders include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, the Wasserman Foundation, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisers, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and more.(v)

  • In both of those two parent triggers, many parents at the targeted schools said they did not want their schools to become charter schools, and a number attempted to rescind their signatures from the petitions.(vi)

  • In both of the two parent triggers that have been attempted, conflict and controversy exploded among the parents at the schools.(vii)

  • In the first of those parent triggers (McKinley Elementary School in Compton, CA, December 2010), the charter school operator that had been poised to take over the school didn't do so; instead, it opened a new charter school a few minutes away. Only a fraction of the McKinley families (apparently between 12.9% and 20%) moved their children to the charter school.(viii)

  • With the charter school having opened nearby instead of taking over the school, the McKinley Elementary School parent trigger appears to have failed conclusively.(ix)

  • In the second parent trigger (Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, CA, January 2012), a July 2012 court ruling has been reported misleadingly as a victory for parents. But actually, what the court ruled was that parents who wanted to rescind their signatures from the parent trigger petition could not do so.(x)

  • While Parent Revolution sometimes claims it is not attacking teachers and is not anti-union, its tactics have repeatedly attacked teachers, and it has accused teachers' unions of intimidating and misleading parents. xi "[Parent Revolution's] Ben Austin has said that it's an open secret that Desert Trails is where the district sends many of its least effective teachers," former Los Angeles school board member Yolie Flores told Education Week.(xii)

  • The current status of the parent trigger at Desert Trails in Adelanto is that Parent Revolution is seeking a charter operator to take over the school(xiii), although many parents have said that they don't want the school to become a charter.(xiv)

  • Here are some basic facts about charter schools:

  • Charter schools overall have a less successful record than comparable public schools.

  • "Takeover" charters at low-achieving public schools, in which a charter operator steps in to run an existing struggling school, have an especially unsuccessful record.

  • Charter school operators generally do not want to take over existing low-performing schools with a pre-existing set of challenges They prefer to start their own schools so they can choose their students and create their own procedures and policies.

  • Public schools are almost always governed by democratically elected local school boards. Charter schools are often run by unelected boards that are not answerable to the parents, voters or the community.

  • Notes
    i There have been two attempted parent triggers, with petitions signed and turned in to officials. The first was at McKinley Elementary School in Compton, CA, in 2010. It has failed, with the school remaining under the same governance as before. The second is at Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, CA, in 2012. It is still being fought out among factions of parents and school and district administrators. The ultimate outcome is unknown at this point.

    ii See previous endnote.

    iii This is borne out by ample news coverage and other sources. Here's what the Los Angeles Weekly reported about the Compton parent trigger (Dec. 9, 2010): Parent Revolution decided to focus on McKinley Elementary School and approach parents there after researching the worst school districts in California. ⦠(Parent Revolution's paid) field organizers have canvassed a large chunk of the 10-square-mile city of Compton, knocking on hundreds of doors, walking its sidewalks and driving its streets, asking people if their children attend McKinley. . . [Organizing director Pat DeTemple] set up a computer program to track trends in the progress of his staff's work. The Los Angeles Times reported (Jan. 13, 2012) on Parent Revolution's involvement in the Adelanto parent trigger ( this version of the Times article posted on the Parent Revolution website): In Adelanto, the process has been transparent and fair, said Gabe Rose of Parent Revolution, the Los Angeles educational reform group that helped train and organize parents in both cities.

    iv This Los Angeles Times article (May 11, 2009) describes how Steve Barr, founder of the Green Dot charter school chain, created Parent Revolution in 2009.

    v The Los Angeles Weekly (Dec. 9, 2010) described Parent Revolution's funding: Parent Revolution, with 10 full-time staff members and a $1 million annual operating budget, is funded by blue-chip philanthropic endeavors, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wasserman Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation.

    vi Los Angeles Times: Some parents are rescinding their signatures to convert McKinley Elementary into a charter school. Dec. 11, 2010) Widely reported, including in the San Bernardino County Sentinel (April 7, 2012): [A]t least 97 parents rescinded their signatures [in the Adelanto parent trigger].

    vii The Los Angeles Weekly live blogging, Dec. 14, 2010: We're reporting live from the [Compton Unified School District] board meeting, packed with press and hundreds of angry parents -- many of whom say they were tricked into signing the Parent Trigger petition without understanding its gravity. Above all, the air is buzzing with confusion. ⦠More and more, the crowd reveals itself as anti-Parent Trigger.

    Los Angeles Times, Feb. 19, 2012: Some parents say the Desert Trails campaign has divided the campus, destroyed friendships and given rise to charges on both sides of harassment and deceit.

    viii The Los Angeles Times reported on Nov. 14, 2011, that 1/5 of the families at McKinley Elementary had transferred their children to the new Celerity Sirius charter -- amounting to 1/3 of the families who had signed the petition. But actually, California Department of Education data show a drop of considerably less: McKinley enrollment dropped 12.9% when the charter opened -- from 426 students to 371.

    ix The Los Angeles Times (Nov. 14, 2011) described the outcome of the Compton parent trigger as legal defeat when the petition was found lacking on largely technical grounds. The Times editorial added: Ultimately, the charter operator, Celerity Educational Group, decided to open a school a few blocks away instead, to predictions that this would wipe out McKinley by drawing away most of its students. But that's not what happened.

    x Los Angeles Times, July 24, 2012: Ruling supports Adelanto charter school effort: Judge rules that California's 'parent trigger' law does not allow signatures to be revoked, meaning Desert Trails Elementary in Adelanto could become a charter.

    xi The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 24, 2012, quoted Parent Revolution Executive Director Ben Austin accusing teachers' union members of harassing parents: "About two weeks ago, the California Teachers Association flew in a cadre of paid operatives from Sacramento," says Ben Austin of Parent Revolution, the liberal activist group that conceived of parent trigger and has supported the campaigns in Compton and Adelanto. "Suddenly parents were accosted in the parking lot by CTA operatives blocking cars from moving until the driver agreed to take a flier plastered with lies."

    Parent Revolution also accused Compton teachers of tormenting and humiliating the children of parents who signed the parent trigger petitions by refusing to allow them to use the rest room. Ben Austin made the accusation in detail in a Jan. 19, 2012, filmed interview with Choice Media. No evidence, further details or discussion have been available.

    Los Angeles Weekly, Jan. 18, 2011: In Compton, Parent Trigger Supporters File Intimidation Charges With U.S. Department of Education

    xii Parent Trigger's First Test Case: An Interview with Yolie Flores, Education Week, Aug. 2, 2012

    xiii KABC Los Angeles, July 23, 2012: Superior Court Judge Steve Malone ordered the Adelanto School District to accept the petition filed by the Desert Trails Parents Union within 30 days and to immediately seek proposals from charter school operators to take over Desert Trails Elementary School.

    xiv Tweet from Victorville Daily Press reporter Natasha Lindstrom, the local reporter who has been covering the Adelanto parent trigger issue, July 23, 2012: Victorville Daily Press reporter Natasha Lindstrom, who has covered the story from the beginning, was tweeting updates the day of the ruling. Many (parents) told me they didn't want a charter. Both sides of Parent Trigger like the current principal, who only took (the) helm in October.

    — Caroline Grannan
    Parents Across America


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