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'Parent Trigger' Plan B: Charter School to Open 2 Blocks From McKinley Elementary, Draining Students and Forcing Back-Door Takeover

Church of the Redeemer in Compton: It's no Hogwarts, but it'll do for now.
Church of the Redeemer in Compton: It's no Hogwarts, but it'll do for now.
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You'd be hard-pressed to find a school district as opposed to the new-age charter-school movement as Compton Unified. Not once have district officials accepted an application from a charter hopeful, despite their schools' consistently abysmal rankings and graduation rates.

Luckily for Celerity Educational Group, the charter operator attempting to flip Compton's McKinley Elementary into one of its own campuses under the controversial new Parent Trigger law...

... education officials in L.A. -- and even unoffcials, like Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa -- are on the opposite end of the spectrum, pushing harder than ever for radical changes to the failing K-12 system. So, while Celerity is being beaten back in court by CUSD, the L.A. County Office of Education has more than willingly offered it a spot in Compton, just two blocks from McKinley:

"This afternoon, parents of McKinley Elementary in Compton, CA were joined by Celerity Educational Group and Parent Revolution to announce that they will be opening a new independent Celerity charter school at the Church of the Redeemer," announced

Parent Revolution, the group who initially urged hundreds of McKinley parents to seize their kids' school from the district, in a proud press release yesterday.

Executive Director Ben Austin said:

"The parents of McKinley have fought long and hard to get a great school for their children, and today it is clear that -- despite the best efforts of Compton Unified -- they have won that fight."

Indeed, Plan B is looking pretty promising. If Celerity opens a first-rate campus -- laptops for all! -- two blocks from McKinley, chances are at least 200 of roughly 400 students will leap at the chance for a better education. This would leave the McKinley campus "underutilized," at which point another controversial California law, Prop. 39, could force the district to let a charter school take over its facilities.

"I'm excited because I know my daughter is going to get the education she needs and deserves," parent Shemika Murphy told the Los Angeles Times.

With this kind of support, Celerity would be ready, willing and perfectly poised to U-Haul its top-notch operations from the church over to the elementary school -- virtually the same outcome as a successful Trigger would have allowed.

Of course, this isn't a complete victory for reformers. The point of the "Revolution" was to test out Schwarzenegger's daring new parent-empowerment laws, setting a precedent for unhappy parents -- and the burgeoning charter-school business -- across the state and nation.

That didn't quite work out as planned. (We're guessing big Revolution donors like Bill Gates and the Wal-Mart family aren't too happy with their minions right now.) CUSD has proved more clever, if villainous, in the courtroom, winning over a judge who was more than willing to sway people's party but couldn't turn a blind eye to the devilish details CUSD was presenting.

The main reason the Trigger is stuck in court is that there are no dates on the hundreds of parent petitions to turn McKinley into Celerity. It's a small error, and a damn shame of a deciding factor, but come on: A signature needs a date.

It's strange that such minutiae slipped through the cracks during the Trigger drive, after Executive Director Austin's 2008 run for the LAUSD school board was botched by bad campaign signatures. He told Weekly reporters during the Parent Trigger drive in December 2010 that Revolution was paying extra close attention to the paperwork itself, learning from his own mistakes.

And paperwork was always crucial to the success of their adventure: Anti-charter CUSD officials (and their lawyers) were expected to scour every last ink blot on the Trigger for potential disqualifiers.

So anyway, Revolution learned the hard way. And after the Trigger's official regulations are finally solidified by the California Board of Education (hopefully without a proposed clause that would allow teachers to veto a parent petition, turning the whole "empowerment" concept on its head), little kinks like a date box won't be the deciding factors in failing-school takeovers.

In the end, we've got to give props to Revolution for finding the sneaky back-door alternative to a Trigger. Whatever it takes to rescue Compton kids from the poor-get-poorer dis-educational system to which district officials have condemned them.

[@simone_electra/swilson@laweekly.com]


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