The real-life version of “Won’t Back Down” — the recent movie that promoted the controversial “parent trigger” law — appears to finally be getting a happier ending than the box office flop.
Parents at Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, Ca. wait for the board to vote. (Photo by Natasha Lindstrom)
Parent union members at Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, Calif., have become the first in the nation to convert their struggling neighborhood school into a charter school.
On a 4-0 vote Tuesday night, the Adelanto School District board approved the charter school operator selected by the Desert Trails Kids First parent union,LaVerne Elementary Preparatory Academy. It took the parent union nearly two years and a bitter legal battle to get there.
“I’m excited. I’m happy. I’m in tears — I’m holding them back,” parent union leader Cynthia Ramirez said shortly after the vote. “I can finally sleep at night.”
California’s Parent Empowerment Act of 2010, known as the parent trigger law, enables parents representing more than 50 percent of students to sign a petition to force major reforms on a low-performing school, from firing the principal and half the staff to a charter conversion. At least seven states have versions of parent trigger laws on the books, and parent trigger bills have been considered in some 20 others.
“The idea behind this movement is not simply to find and save every single failing school in the country through community organizing,” said Ben Austin, executive director of Parent Revolution, the Los Angeles-based advocacy group that trained and bankrolled the Adelanto parents. “The idea is shifting the paradigm and giving parents the power to do what’s in the best interest of their kids.”
Tuesday’s vote was quick and unanimous, and followed by a brief recess to let the parent trigger supporters celebrate. Members of the parent union and Parent Revolution exchanged hugs with each other, board members and district officials.
Parents hug after the vote. (Photo by Natasha Lindstrom)
“When the cameras are gone and the newspapers are gone, we’re still here and we’re going to work this out,” said Board President Christine Turner.
It was a drastically different scene than so many of the heated school board meetings last spring, when the board twice rejected the parent trigger petition amid a counter-campaign to get parents to withdraw their signatures. The smaller, more loosely organized group of parents opposing the parent trigger argued that some parents had been misled when they signed the initial petition.
Both sides accused the other of harassment and intimidation. The parent union argued the opposition was fueled by teachers’ union members.
The board’s rejection prompted the parent union to sue the district. In July, a VictorvilleSuperior Court judge ruled in the parent union’s favor and said that parents couldn’t withdraw their signatures. (full story)