California School Parents Make History

JANUARY 10, 2013 | by PRIYA ABRAHAM

Parent TriggerThe win didn't come easy, but parents at Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, Calif. finally prevailed this week in putting the failing school under new charter school management, becoming the first group of parents in America to successfully use a state parent trigger law.

Parent trigger laws exist in seven states. The laws allow a majority of parents, usually by petition, to effectively take over a failing school by changing management or teachers, converting to a charter school, allowing kids to attend a different school with opportunity scholarships, or enacting some other reform.

The Desert Trails parents' pioneering victory came after 18 months of work, a long slog through California's court system, a belligerent teachers' union, and even a school board member who demanded to be marched out of court in his own handcuffs rather than allow the charter school conversion. The parents' dramatic story served as inspiration for Won't Back Down, a movie released last year about a mother struggling to turn around her daughter's failing school.

At the time of Won't Back Down's release, critics scoffed that nowhere in America had a parent trigger law been successfully used. Now Adelanto parents finally have their Hollywood ending. Pennsylvania parents desperate to help their kids stuck in failing schools—often where a majority of students cannot read or do math at grade level—would also benefit from a state parent trigger law. For more, see 5 Facts on the Parent Trigger in Pennsylvania.


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