A little later today, I'll be headed to Adelanto, a small city in the High Desert of Southern California, where parents at Desert Trails Elementary School plan to deliver petitions to convert the failing public school into an independent charter school. If the district certifies the signatures in the next 40 days--some 70 percent of parents at the school reportedly signed the petition--the conversion is mandatory under state law.
Desert Trails would be the first school successfully transformed under California's landmark Parent Empowerment Act, also known as the Parent Trigger. It's been a long time coming.
Under California's Parent Trigger law, if at least 50 percent of parents at a failing school sign a petition, the district must undertake one of several specified reforms. These include charter conversion, firing the principal and half the staff, extending school hours and adjusting the curriculum, establishing an "alternate governance" plan, or closing the school altogether.
Several other states are considering their own versions of the parent trigger. The teachers unions and their allies loathe the idea.
In December 2010, parents at McKinley Elementary School in Compton submitted the very first petition under the Parent Empowerment Act. But the effort failed when a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that parents failed to include a date box on their petitions--in effect, voided on a technicality.
The Desert Trail parents say they tried to negotiate for policy changes with the Adelanto Unified School District, to no avail. In reality, then, the petition is intended to force district officials to the bargaining table.
The Wall Street Journal and L.A. Weekly both have stories about the Desert Trail Parent Trigger effort. I'll be writing a story of my own for City Journal California. Stay tuned.