Supporters of converting an Adelanto, California district
school into a charter had boasted that 70 percent of parents backed the change,
but the Los Angeles Times reported that nearly 100 later
backed out of the petition,
which the school board threw out on Tuesday.
The failure to enact a ‘parent trigger’ and make Desert Trails Elementary a
charter shows how difficult it is to campaign for the sweeping reform the law
allows—just as it should be. As states like Florida and Michigan consider their own trigger laws, they should set
the bar high to make sure that transformational change is possible only with a
supermajority of parents, not the simple
majority necessary in California. A parent trigger is good policy. It brings
families to a bargaining table that has been the exclusive province of teacher
unions and school boards, and it begins to rethink the way we govern public
education—and does so in ways that meet the unique needs of low-performing and
low-income students. The trigger also helps to counteract monopolies, whether
those include strong-arming school boards or obstructionist unions. But a parent-directed reform with a
tenuous hold on support and authority can lead to its own imbalance of power, a
problem that can be checked if two-thirds of the families agree to sign up.
That’s a threshold required to pass constitutional referenda in many states,
and it’s one that can give parent unions an invaluable tool to turn around a
struggling school.

Teresa Watanabe, “Campaign
for Adelanto charter school falls short
,” Los Angeles Times, February 22, 2012

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