UPDATE, 5 p.m.: Eric Garcetti breaks silence on Parent Trigger. After the jump.

UPDATE, 4 p.m.: Wendy Greuel tells L.A. Weekly she supports the Parent Trigger. Eric Garcetti is now the only mayoral candidate who remains to be silent. After the jump.

After Los Angeles Unified School District board members approved a Parent Trigger earlier this week, mayoral candidates Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel refused to comment on the historic vote, which allows parents to take over a chronically failing elementary school in West Adams.

Now mayoral candidate Kevin James and two Parent Trigger heavyweights are speaking out about that silence — and Garcetti and Greuel's commitment to education reform is being questioned. With an alarming 21 percent dropout rate at L.A. Unified, it's no small matter.

On Tuesday, L.A. Unified board members approved the first Parent Trigger to take place in the district, which is the second largest public school system in the United States. The Parent Trigger is a California law that allows parents to institute changes at a chronically failing school through petition.

In this case, parents sought to bring reform to 24th Street Elementary School in West Adams, which serves mostly poor Latino students.

Garcetti is looking to win a solid chunk of the Latino vote, but he refused to reply to L.A. Weekly earlier this week about where he stood on the Parent Trigger law and the recent actions taken by L.A. Unified School board members. Greuel also declined to comment.

Mayoral candidates Kevin James, Emanuel Pleitez, and Jan Perry all told the Weekly that they support the Parent Trigger law.

James now blasts Greuel and Garcetti for their silence.

“Mr. Garcetti and Ms. Greuel are refusing to make a statement regarding the Parent Trigger legislation because they are so entrenched and indebted to the unions that are funding their campaigns,” says James in a statement to the Weekly. “The United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) recently endorsed Eric Garcetti and several unions have endorsed Wendy.”

He adds, “Therefore, it should be no surprise that Mr. Garcetti and Ms. Greuel would not come forward in support of the Parent Trigger because the union bosses who funnel money into their campaigns are against it. Mr. Garcetti and Ms. Greuel seem more concerned with pleasing their campaign contributors than the concerns of the residents and the future of our children.”

James concludes, “Education reform decisions need to be made on the basis of what's best for the children and not what's best for bureaucracy. I have always been an advocate of the Parent Trigger, and I look forward to working with LAUSD on improving our city's education system.”

Teachers' unions have been historically and aggressively opposed to the Parent Trigger, which allows parents to replace a failing public school with a charter school. The trigger also gives more political power to parents — if a school district refuses to implement changes to improve a failing school, parents can take action and move forward with a Parent Trigger.

Two Parent Trigger power players are also speaking out: former California State Senator Gloria Romero, who authored the Parent Trigger law, and Parent Revolution executive director Ben Austin, who's the driving force behind the Parent Trigger movement in California and across the country.

Romero, who's also director of California Democrats for Education Reform, tells the Weekly, “No mayor should be afraid of endorsing and embracing a law that was written to give parents real rights to become the educational architects of their own children's futures.”

She continues, “I remind both Eric and Wendy that just last year the U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously endorsed the Parent Trigger law I authored, and I call upon them both to join Kevin James and mayors across the nation in supporting this parent empowerment legislation.”

Romero concludes, “At the very least, they need to be truthful to the parents of this great city they hope to lead and truthfully articulate their position. Now is not the time to duck and cover, but rather to stand and deliver. You can't have a great city without great schools. And parents fighting to transform chronically underperforming schools is not only an economic issue, but the greatest civil rights issue of our time.”

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa also sees education reform as an important civil rights issue for African American and Latino students, and has been a vocal supporter of the Parent Trigger.

Ben Austin tells the Weekly, “The Parent Trigger isn't just a new law, it's an entirely new way of thinking about public education and education reform. The fundamental idea behind the idea of parents having power is so that they can force the district to make decisions rooted in what's good for kids, not adults.”

He adds, “The current mayor strongly supports Parent Trigger. Each candidate for mayor needs to take a stand on whether they too support giving parents power over the educational destiny of their own children.”

All strong words, but will Garcetti and Greuel commit to one position or another and publicly say something?

UPDATE, 4 p.m.: Wendy Greuel says unequivocally that she supports the Parent Trigger in this statement to the Weekly:

“I support the Parent Trigger law because it gives every parent in Los Angeles the power to transform their children's school and hold the Los Angeles Unified School District accountable for making decisions rooted in what is best for our children and not adults or special interests.

“I stand with the parents of the 24th Street Elementary School in celebrating this victory for our students and I applaud the School District, Superintendent Deasy and Board Members for becoming the first school board to approve a Parent Trigger petition.”

Eric Garcetti, the only mayoral candidate who has not publicly stated his position on the Parent Trigger, remains to be silent.

UPDATE, 5 p.m.: Garcetti breaks his silence and supports 24th Street Elementary School parents who pulled Parent Trigger this week in Los Angeles. But he does not fully back the Parent Trigger law, making him the only mayoral candidate to take that position. Garcetti also differs from current L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who's been a vocal and strong supporter of the trigger.

“I applaud the parents and community at 24th Street School for stepping up and demanding change under the Parent Trigger law,” Garcetti says in a statement to the Weekly. “While I support any mechanism that truly elevates the voices of parents and other community stakeholders in the hard work of improving our schools, I'm not sure that Parent Trigger on its own is ultimately able to provide the kind of systematic and meaningful parent involvement and local control that turning around our schools will require.

“As mayor, I will be an advocate for every resident, especially our students, and that includes fighting for full funding under Proposition 98 and demanding that Sacramento stop paying our schools in IOUs. We are short-changing our children and our future. I will also use city funds to help our schools as I have in my district where we have built community centers because we need to facilitate parent involvement and local control systematically and not just on a case-by-case basis.”

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

LA Weekly