People who follow education news in California probably have heard of the new law known as the “Parent Trigger.” It allows parents to unionize — and to petition to convert eligible low-performing schools into charters or force major staffing shake-ups, among other interventions.
It was enacted in January 2010, but it wasn’t until this summer that the California Board of Education approved regulations to clarify how it will work.
Parent Revolution, the L.A.-based group behind the law, stopped in Oakland this week on a bus tour through California. Nearly all who came to the information session at Brookfield Elementary School were either part of the bus tour or members of the Oakland chapter of the NAACP, invited by Oakland school board member Alice Spearman. I noticed that only a handful of current OUSD parents (maybe just two or three) were in the room to learn about a movement described by organizer Shirley Ford as “grassroots in every sense of the word.”
That appears to have been by design. Spearman told the small group that she wanted to start with “all the key players in Oakland” to decide whether to form a parent union chapter here. If so, she said, they could bring other groups and “the grassroots parents” into the discussion.
Some critics of the Parent Trigger see it as a tactic by the charter school lobby to run more schools, especially since the founders of Parent Revolution have ties to the Green Dot charter school network. But while Spearman has supported a few charters, she’s hardly an ally of the charter school movement. She has gone against staff recommendations to vote to close charter schools or to keep them from opening in the first place.
A school is eligible to be `triggered’ if it has not met federal No Child Left Behind targets for four years in a row and if it has an API below 800. Parents whose children attend said school — or one of its feeder schools — are able to vote on proposed changes. The law requires 51 percent approval.
Ben Austin, who founded Parent Revolution, told the group that parents will be “treated like grown-ups” if they have the power of the trigger behind them, even if they don’t use it.
“The way that we’re hopeful that this law may be the most transformative is maybe not even using it at all,” he said. “They’re organizing to have power, just like teachers have power. We’re all progressives … we support teachers unions … we just think parents should be able to unionize as well.”
Do you agree?