Reason.tv: California's Parent Trigger Law - Compton Parents Take on the Public School System


Last year, parents of students in failing California public schools were given a reason to be hopeful when Sacramento politicians passed something called the "parent trigger" law. The way the law works is that if 51% of parents at a failing school sign a petition, they can turn the school into a charter school, replace the staff or simply use the petition as a bargaining chip to initiate a conversation about change.

On December 7, 2010, with help from the non-profit group Parent Revolution, parents of children attending McKinley Elementary in Compton became the first group of parents to pull the parent trigger. Their dream was to transform the school into a Celerity charter school. Instead, the Compton parents were thrust into a prolonged fight with supporters of the status quo: the Compton Unified School District, the teachers' unions, Gov. Jerry Brown and Tom Torlakson, the newly elected Superintendent of Public Instruction.

This is the story about a group of parents in Compton who are fighting to give their children a better education.

Approximately 8.5 minutes.

Produced by Paul Feine and Alex Manning.

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  1. Now, now, we can't have 'you people' deciding on how to educate yourselves, now can we?

    1. I mean, really most of you are public school educated. So what could you possibly know?

      1. Get your f*ckin' asses back on the plantation!

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  2. Mothers of young children are possessed, driven, and crazy. If these mothers can't break a union's grip on their children, then I'll accept it can't be done.

    1. They haven't yet moved on to beating the shit out of union reps in the parking lot, so let's not give up on them yet.

  3. This is going to be rough on progressives because in their narrative only middle-class racists want charter schools.

  4. So why don't the 51%+ pull their kids out and start their own school?

    I know they are poor but certainly they can pull in donations to get something started.

    1. "So why don't the 51%+ pull their kids out and start their own school?
      I know they are poor but certainly they can pull in donations to get something started."

      Uh, because they've already paid for their kids' education and been defrauded? How about that?

      1. They should look at that as lost money. Write it off and move on.

        And of course they've been defrauded, this is government we're talking about.

        Pulling their kids out what have be an enormous political act. It would force the gov types into making some hard decisions and given their competence level they would make the wrong decisions.

        This would garner more media coverage and lead to a positive outcome for the parents.

        1. If it were just a sunk cost, that'd be fine. There still remains a "tribute"* stream that stretches into perpetuity.

          Actually, I think you are right about what the parents should do. But I understand why they aren't doing that.

          *as in the kind of tribute you'd pay to Vito Corleone or Ghengis Khan.**

          ** Except that Vito Corleone or Ghengis Khan could at least probably run schools with level of apptitude above "pure suckitude".

          1. Because it isn't that easy. California's homeschooling laws are severe - unlike most states, you can't legally pull your child out of the public schools and home school them UNLESS you have a teaching certificate from the state. I don't know what kind of laws they have about starting private schools, or what controls the state has over those schools, but I imagine it's equally problematic and difficult to start up a school as it is to homeschool. Now, they could perform an act of civil disobedience, if they chose.

            1. My bad, I forgot how fascist the school laws are in some states. So they'd have to either do some serious (and risky) civil disobediance or move to a free state. And Texas is all full, just for the record.

              1. Unfortunately, Texas is about as free as California when it comes to public schools.

        2. Extended Warren T|3.2.11 @ 1:48PM|#
          "They should look at that as lost money. Write it off and move on."

          Yep, every time they either write a rent check or pay the property taxes.
          Never heard of sunk costs referring to continuing payments.

        3. They should look at that as lost money. Write it off and move on.

          I wish I could do the same thing with Social Security, but the bastards won't let me out of the system.

    2. Absolutely! Heck, why don't they forget the "school" idea all together? They should obviously just hire a private, live-in tutor for each of their children! And they can let their children eat cake, too!

  5. "California Federation of Teachers President Marty Hittleman?the same man who called the parent trigger the 'lynch mob provision'?confidently predicted to the media that Gov. Brown would immediately remove me (Ben Austin) from the state board because I had used my position to advocate for radical kids-first change," said Austin. "It turns out he was right."

    Moonbeam fired every school choice advocate on the state school board.

    1. Moonbeam is a two-faced liar and has been his entire life.

      1. He's been a politician his entire life.


        1. That's exactly what sevo already said.

  6. Hearing about the cruel joke the California State Legislature played on these parents almost makes me want to support criminalising the teachers' unions!!!

  7. Why am I seeing echoes of the civil rights movement in this?

  8. I'm not really liking how they keep asserting quality education as a "right"

    1. Yeah. It's important to note that this movement is still opposed to individual rights. I went to a panel discussion where this Ben guy and some others were discussing school choice. They don't see community majority petitioning as a step toward individual school choice. They view it as the proper way it should be. They think the majority in a community should make the education choices for the minority(individual). This will have the effect of strengthening the grip of unions where teachers unions are more popular than charter schools. Those who would take their kids out of public schools ate gaining sympathy now but that sympathy would be replaced by the mob rulers favorite sentence "too bad! You lost!". There has never been a better chance to pressure California's broke ass into selling the whole system. In the long run the parent trigger will be a barrier to choice. These guys are happy to admit that they're opposed to vouchers or anything that would let parents make their own choices without petitioning the government.

    2. Quality education is *not* a right, but as long as state governments legally compel parents to educate their children in public institutions (a place most state officials believe is the "proper" place for children to be educated), then those same governments have a *duty* to provide a quality education to those children.

  9. The funny thing is, I believe, there's a charter school in Compton (or close to it) named after Jerry Brown's dad.

  10. There's something galling about calling in parents to make sure they're "thinking right" (note the assumption that anyone who didn't sign it is, of course, thinking correctly).

    Poor people are just like children. They need their betters to explain why they shouldn't expect worthwhile education (that's for white people)

    1. Your assumption being that there are no poor white people? Ridiculous. My yearly income (yes, I am white) is technically under the poverty level...yet I still find a way to support my child without anyone's help (including the government's) *and* to educate him at home with a quality curriculum that includes advanced maths and science, Latin, logic, and (modern) French.

      In my county (Northeast Georgia), more than 60% of the public school children qualify for free and reduced lunches...in a population that is more than 80% "white." Our schools receive little to no outside funding because the state sets that based on one thing: the value of land, which is sky-high in our area thanks to second homes built around lakes created to power our region. In fact, much of our area's property taxes are sent to schools in southern Georgia, so we really are in a pickle here. And yet we still have one of the best school systems in the state...

      While I realize that your comment about poor people was sarcastic in nature, I don't appreciate your assumptions about who those people are. I live in an area where the year-round residents are largely impoverished, people who give and give and give so that their children can have a quality education and a future. Do you have any idea what that kind of sacrifice is like?

  11. The lack of a charter school is not Compton's problem!

  12. I won't pretend to be an expert on any of what's going on in California, but I do work at a charter school in a fairly bleak urban area, so I do have some perspective. The school I work at took TEN YEARS from the initial planning stage to the opening year, and even then, it only held grades K - 2, and built up each year until it reached full K- 5 status. "Charter School" is not a synonym for "good school", and demanding that failing schools become charters is no kind of a solution. It will only lead to rushed, ill-planned schools that will eventually end up failing students just as badly as regular public schools. School problems in areas like Compton run deep and have multiple causes across the board (socioeconomic issues, government, community, crime, etc...). There simply isn't a single blame or a quick fix out there, no matter how much we wish there were.

    1. Maybe it's the kids that fail the school!

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  15. Get your f*ckin' asses back on the plantation!

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  17. Wow. The bureaucracy's response to the petition was way the fuck out of line. If I were ever summoned to a school under that kind of a threat, I'd show up and tell them to comply with the law, or the consequences would be dire.


  18. why don't the plebes just shut the fuck up?

  19. The problem is that these parent's groups are run or heavily influenced by members of the Bradley and Tucker families who between alternating years in charge of both the city and the school board ran both into the ground. The Bradley family is especially egregious as they were running the schools when the state took over a few years ago and have been doing their utmost to get a hold of the piggy bank ever since.

  20. Whoa...since when did you guys start doing game commentary?

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