'Parent Trigger' Supporters Face Intimidation Tactics in School Reform Battle in Compton, Antonio Villaraigosa Jumps into Fray

UPDATE: L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says school reform in Compton "isn't about pointing fingers or dragging our feet." More comments from Villaraigosa after break. First reported at 7 a.m.

As expected, the battle over control of McKinley Elementary at Compton Unified School District, which was ignited this Tuesday when parents made historic use of a new school reform law called the Parent Trigger, has started to get ugly, with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa jumping into the fray.

Villaraigosa, along with former California State Senator Gloria Romero, Rev. Eric Lee of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles, and Rev. K.W. Tulloss of the National Action Network Los Angeles, is holding a morning press conference today in front of McKinley Elementary to show his support for the parents who pulled the trigger.

L.A. Weekly reported the exclusive, behind-the-scenes details of how parents and paid organizers teamed up to start the process of taking over the chronically failing elementary school in the cover story "California's Parent Trigger."

The first use of the Parent Trigger law in California received nationwide coverage earlier this week -- for the first time ever, perhaps in the entire United States, parents are poised to take control of a failing public school through a petition drive.

But now that the TV camera crews are gone, things are starting to get hairy.

Even though Parent Trigger supporters have done everything within state law, opponents are trying to intimidate parents with threats of deportation and an overall misinformation campaign, according to Parent Revolution organizers, who are helping to guide reform-minded parents through the Parent Trigger process.

The goal of these under-handed tactics is to get enough parents to withdraw their signatures from the Parent Trigger petition so the take over cannot be carried out.

According to the law, if 51 percent of parents whose children attend a chronically failing school sign a petition that demands some kind of change, a local school district must honor their wishes.

In Compton, 61 percent of McKinley Elementary parents signed a petition that seeks to turn the public school into a charter school -- a percentage that's well over the state law threshold.

Compton Unified officials are now weighing their legal options. In the meantime, Parent Trigger supporters have been reportedly dealing with aggressive push back.

Villaraigosa and company are now trying to push back the push back with a high-profile press conference.

Such events and hurdles will most certainly continue over the next several weeks.

Update, 3:03 p.m.:

At this morning's press conference in Compton, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said,

"This isn't about pointing fingers or dragging our feet. It's about coming together to make our voices heard. It's about using the power of petition to ensure our students get the education they deserve. This week, a majority of McKinley parents came together to make their voices heard, used the power of the petition, and demanded better."

He added, "We have an opportunity here to band together and do what is best for students and teachers alike: Create a school where students are achieving at high levels, where teachers are being honored and supported, and where administrators are working together with parents and the community to build a brighter future."

In response to commenter F. Perez, Parent Revolution organizers have said that McKinley School officials have undertaken a misinformation campaign, telling one parent, for example, that she will have to pay a tuition, which is not true. Other parents have routinely told Parent Trigger supporters who are Latino that they could be deported. Parent Revolution organizers and parents say they have also dealt with teachers who have tried to intimidate them through threats. We quickly mentioned some of these things above in the original post.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at


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