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Education

First 'Parent Trigger' School in United States Opens Doors in California

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Wed, Jul 31, 2013 at 1:35 PM

click to enlarge Cynthia Ramirez - PARENT REVOLUTION
  • Parent Revolution
  • Cynthia Ramirez
For the first time in the United States, a school has been fully transformed by a Parent Trigger law. That historic moment happened yesterday in California when parents opened Desert Trails Preparatory Academy in the Mojave Desert town of Adelanto.

"For the parents and children of Desert Trails," Cynthia Ramirez, lead parent coordinator for the Desert Trails Parent Union, said in a statement, "it is a wonderful and exciting new chapter. Although there were times when we wondered if we would ever see this day, we knew our children were counting on us, and so we kept on going."

California's Parent Trigger allows parents to take over a chronically failing school through petition and to institute various changes -- from creating a charter school to bringing in a new principal.

L.A. Weekly covered the Adelanto saga in which parents sought to transform failing Desert Trails Elementary School into a charter.

At one point, Adelanto School District board members defied a court order, even though parents had gathered enough signatures.

"The parents of Desert Trails have done something that only a few years ago was unthinkable," Ben Austin, executive director of Parent Revolution, said in a statement. "Now, because of these parents, the power the law gives them has become real and tangible. We can walk through the school campus and see children engaged and learning."

He added, "We feel the parents' optimism that their child will succeed academically and will have a bright future. Parents all across America can share that optimism because of what the Desert Trail parents have achieved."

Parent Revolution, an L.A.-based education reform group that helped organize the Desert Trails parents, had tried to push through a Parent Trigger with parents in Compton. That effort was thwarted by Compton Unified School District board members and a legal technicality.

Most recently, chronically failing schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District have been targets of the Parent Trigger law, which has caused a huge stir in the education world.

Powerful teachers unions are aggressively opposed to the law, saying it's a clever way to turn public schools into private charter schools that are not unionized.

Parent Trigger supporters say the law is a necessary tool to give parents real power to improve a chronically failing school.

"We can no longer just pay lip service to parental involvement in schools," said Congressman George Miller, a California Democrat and ranking member of the House Education and Workforce Committee. "Instead, parents must be empowered to stand up and say the status quo isn't good enough for their children. When school districts and communities have failed to improve their schools, it is unconscionable to ask parents and their children to wait."

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Patrick Range McDonald on Twitter at @PRMcDonald.

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