Controversial ‘parent trigger’ school reform prevails in California

Robby Soave | Reporter

California’s “parent trigger” law, which allows parents to make administrative changes at failing public schools, scored a major victory Thursday with the approval of a new plan for a troubled elementary school in Adelanto.

Parent trigger gives parents the right to enact massive overhauls of public schools. They can petition the school board to hire and fire teachers and administrative staff, change the curriculum, and hand over leadership of the school to a charter company.

Parents of kids at Desert Trails Elementary School chose the latter option, and their proposal to turn the school over to private operation was recently approved.

After visiting LaVerne Elementary Preparatory Academy — another school run by the charter company that will now take over Desert Trails — school board member Christine Turner said she felt comfortable with the new direction.

“I was impressed with every aspect of that school,” she said in a statement. “I was impressed with the teaching, I was impressed with the engagement of every student and their parents, I was impressed with the administration and I could tell that you have passion for teaching, you have a passion for what you do and it shows. And I believe that you will continue with that same passion with the students at Desert Trails.”

The reform is despised by teachers unions, who claim that parent trigger effectively privatizes education. Unions waged an aggressive legal battle to quash parent trigger proposals in California. While they successfully defeated the parents at another school in Compton, the Adelanto proposal survived.

Leaders of the parent trigger effort were thrilled with the victory.

“We applaud the school board members for their courage and commitment,” said Cynthia Ramirez, a leader of the movement, in a statement. “The school board has set an example for other parents and districts across the country on how to use Parent Trigger legislation to transform otherwise failing public schools.”

The “parent trigger” law was the subject of the recent major motion picture “Won’t Back Down,” starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis. The movie received favorable reviews from supporters of school choice and education reform, but was protested by teachers unions.

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