Los Angeles Unified School District Approves Historic Parent Trigger, L.A. Mayoral Candidates Weigh In Or Stay Mum

Elected board members of the Los Angeles Unified School District -- the second largest public school system in the country -- unanimously approved a Parent Trigger for the 24th Street Elementary School in West Adams. It's a first for L.A. Unified, and Los Angeles mayoral candidates are weighing in or staying mum.

With no threat of a dragged out legal battle, 24th Street Elementary parents can now move forward with their plans to institute changes through a California education reform law called the Parent Trigger, which gives parents the authority to take over a chronically failing school through petition.

"Today is an historic day," says Amabilia Villeda, lead parent organizer of the 24th Street Elementary School Parents' Union, in a press release. "We are proud to be a part of history. For the first time, a school board has approved a Parent Trigger petition without any form of legal challenge or question."

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has been a vocal supporter of the Parent Trigger law and what's been happening at 24th Street Elementary School. He'll be leaving office in a few months due to term limits. Candidates Eric Garcetti, Wendy Greuel, Jan Perry, Kevin James, and Emanuel Pleitez are vying for his job.

In a statement to L.A. Weekly, Kevin James, a former radio talk show host, says, "I am thrilled the LAUSD has passed the Parent Trigger motion in favor of the parents at 24th Street Elementary School, which I strongly support."

He adds, "I was one of the first media outlets to offer a platform for the Parent Revolution to promote their Parent Trigger Reform legislation. I have continued to support it throughout my campaign for L.A. mayor because it empowers parents to take a more active role in their children's education."

Parent Revolution is a Los Angeles-based education reform advocacy group that has been helping parents organize Parent Triggers in California and across the country.

Emanuel Pleitez, a 30-year-old technology expert who graduated Stanford University and grew up in the mean streets of South L.A. and El Sereno, tells the Weekly, "This is undoubtedly a victory for our parents and an even greater victory for our students. Parent Trigger empowers parents and encourages them to be involved in the academic lives of their students. I support Parent Trigger and stand with our parents and students."

L.A. City Councilwoman Jan Perry tells the Weekly in a statement, "I support the Parent Trigger. It's a tool that allows parents to have a say in their child's education."

Garcetti, who attended exclusive Harvard-Westlake School, Columbia University, and Oxford University, and Greuel, who attended John F. Kennedy High School in Granada Hills and UCLA, were asked for comment. They did not respond.

Garcetti and Greuel have been hesitant to say exactly where they stand on the Parent Trigger issue, even though it has been supported by such Democratic political stars as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

Garcetti has recently been endorsed by United Teachers Los Angeles, the teachers' union at L.A. Unified. Teachers' unions have been historically and aggressively opposed to the Parent Trigger, and Garcetti has not sounded like an education reformer on the campaign trail.

The Parent Trigger was created to give parents more say over their children's education and to give parents needed political leverage when dealing with school district officials and teachers' unions, both of which often fight education reform.

An alarming 21 percent of L.A. Unified students from the class of 2011 dropped out of school before receiving their high school diplomas. In 2010, 25 percent dropped out at L.A. Unified.

While Garcetti and Greuel have been quiet about the Parent Trigger and meaningful education reform, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has been much more outspoken. In a 2012 Los Angeles Daily News interview, he said, "The issue of education and education reform is the civil rights issue of our time."

Over the past 20 years, drop out rates have been significantly higher among African American and Latino students compared to white students, according to federal government findings.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

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