By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
One of those parents will be Valarie McMillan, a longtime resident of Compton, who is black. Her 11-year-old son, who attends McKinley, has reading problems and his teachers have failed to help him. "His reading comprehension is not where it should be," she says.
Because student scores such as her son’s are so much lower in reading, math and science at McKinley compared with students in other inner-city California schools, McFarlane says intensive, early intervention classes in the core subject areas will start as soon as July. The children, having been left so far behind, should not have to wait for the normal school year in the fall of 2011, she says.
Clearly, USC's Hasan says, there's too much at stake for the Parent Trigger to be waved off as a political tool for creating charter schools. "It's a response to chronic educational deprivation," she says. "Parents are desperate to improve schools, and they want their kids to have a better life. It's really about survival for their children."
McFarlane, who immigrated from Panama when she was 20, says, "Most of these parents are immigrants, and they went through a lot to come here. So they think, 'Why should I let things fizzle?' Once you come here, you want to make the most of the opportunities this country has to offer."
Since this is the first Parent Trigger attempt, nobody knows how quickly the parents will be able to force the district to relinquish the school. Compton Unified School District Board vice president Micah Ali, four days before the Parent Trigger signature-gathering success was announced at the Dec. 7 press conference, hinted at a possible battle to come. He insists to the Weekly that he is a "determined advocate" for student and parental rights, knows of no particularly pressing academic issues at McKinley, and that he hasn't "heard any complaints" about the school.
Asked how Compton Unified will handle the Parent Trigger, Ali offers a somewhat sly response, pointing to section 53303 of the Parent Trigger law, which states that a school district "shall not be required to implement" the Parent Trigger if the request is "for reasons other than improving academic achievement or pupil safety."
Says Ali: "Nothing is guaranteed."
As for the hard-hitting, July 2010 consultant report to outgoing state Superintendent O’Connell that detailed the troubles at the faltering school district, Ali says, "There's progress being made."
Austin responds that McKinley's parents, and his organization, are "prepared for whatever actions the district may take." He says, "The law is clearly on the side of the parents of McKinley, not the bureaucrats at Compton Unified."
If Compton Unified's lawyers fight back based on section 53303, "They’ll be laughed out of court," he says. "McKinley is one of the lowest-performing schools in all of California, and it's in one of the lowest-performing, most dysfunctional school districts in the country. If that's not enough for a Parent Trigger, I don’t know what is."
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at email@example.com.
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