Finally, over two months after it was filed, Compton school board members responded to a parent petition at their meeting last night: After all this hubbub, it appears the history-making petition just wasn't stapled right.
Judging by the vigor with which the Compton Unified School District has been dragging its heels thus far against the attempt to convert McKinley Elementary into a Celerity Educational Group charter school -- as requested by over 60 percent of McKinley parents, and as permitted by California's controversial "Parent Trigger" law -- we're thinking its official rejection of the charter-school petition probably had more to do with buying time and delaying reform than any real technical concern.
According to the Sue Oliver of Kirkland & Ellis -- the law firm representing McKinley Parents for Change in court, pro bono -- the board's only concrete argument was that one parent's paperwork wasn't stapled together correctly, and that another's numbers weren't in the right order.
Here's how the Los Angeles Times, the only major newspaper that has come out in full editorial opposition to the Parent Trigger law, justified last night's decision:
Board members with the Compton Unified School District voted unanimously, 7-0, to return the petition to parents at McKinley Elementary , saying it failed to include information required by state regulations. District officials also found that parents cited the wrong education code section and failed to provide evidence that they had selected their desired charter operator, Celerity Educational Group, after a "rigorous review process" as required by state emergency regulations.
"The petition is materially non-qualifying and is being returned as insufficient," the board found.
And here's how Kirkland & Ellis saw it:
Tonight, Compton Unified's Board of Education voted to deny the voices of hundreds of parents as they fought for a better education for their children. They excused their dispicable actions by citing absurd technicalities like a typo in the petition and insufficient staples attaching pieces of paper.
This is the most recent tactic taken by Compton Unified to keep the status quo and maintain the power instead of helping the parents. Already, Compton Unified has been issued a Temporary Restraining Order by a Superior Court judge for their illegal "verification" process that disenfranchised parents and a "rescission" campaign that harrased and lied to parents.
The Associated Press took a more neutral approach:
The Compton Unified School District board voted unanimously Tuesday night to deny the petition after finding numerous flaws, including discrepancies in the signatures and insufficiencies in the petition format.
Parents' lawyer Jeff Sinek says he is confident a court will find the rejection was based purely on pretext.
There's still a loud, politically stacked movement behind the Parent Trigger law (State Senator Gloria Romero, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, etc.), but Governor Jerry Brown's new Board of Education and teachers union-backed State Superintendent Tom Torlakson are doing everything they can to tighten regulations -- likely encouraging all Compton's petty backpedaling.
At this point, the Times isn't even trying to mask its outright disdain for the Trigger and the charter-school supporters/radical reformers who back it. The photo included with today's story shows five McKinley students skipping happily under a banner that reads "United and Together Celebrating Our Success."The kids are, however, wearing Parent Revolution T-shirts -- reminding us how detrimental this uber-political district vs. charter neighborhood feud must be for their present well-being. Back when the petition was first filed, a few mothers quoted their kids as saying they hated them for trying get rid of the school's teachers (who would all have to re-apply under Celerity management).
Throughout this fight, students have been dragged to school board meetings way past their bedtimes -- pulled back and forth between authority in the classroom and authority at home.
So, for the children's sake, we hope all adults involved can wrap sort out their differences in due time. But -- going off this latest staple squabble, and the lineup of court dates it will inspire -- looks like the true victims of this fight may be in for another school year (or two) of community unrest and classroom battle lines.
We'll keep trying to get our hands on the district's exact reasoning for rejecting the petition, word for word. Because from here on out, it's the fine print that will matter most.
Update: Here's the seven-page PDF, in which the Compton Unified School District explains why it has rejected the Parent Trigger petition. We're talking through the language with experts -- will update again with analysis.
Originally posted at 1:20 p.m.