Empowering California Parents
New regulations under the California Parent Empowerment Law are pending approval by the Office of Administrative Law in late July and give parents further rights to change low-performing schools. The Parent Empowerment Law, passed in January 2010 and known as the "parent trigger law," is one of three similar laws in Connecticut and Mississippi. It came about thanks to Parent Revolution, a non-profit group empowering parents to transform their low-performing schools. If the parents of at least half the student body sign petitions, they can decide the school's new path from among four options.
In December 2010, controversy erupted from the California law's first case at McKinley Elementary School in the Compton Unified School District, where parents sought to convert the school into a charter school. The school board resisted, and found that none of the 275 signatures were valid, in part because of typos or having no dates attached to them. The petitions were drafted pro bono by attorneys.
The state PTA was prompted by this case to help push the state Board of Education to approve content in mid-July for new regulations. The regulations include: ensuring local school boards announce the low-achieving schools that would qualify for change; mandating that any organization, such as a charter operator, that supports the petition identify itself; and ensuring that signature gatherers disclose if they are being paid. It also provides a template for a petition. The state board is to formally approve the regulations in September.
The PTA is pushing for a requirement that parents be involved after the change is implemented. "Whether it's in a law or new regulations to inform parents of their rights, we believe parent participation needs to be ongoing," Patty Scripter, the PTA's director of legislation says, "and we need parents to be involved past the petition process."