Charter Takeover

Failing California schools


In 2010 California passed a law allowing parents of failing public schools to band together and convert them into charter schools, which are subject to fewer labor restrictions and often have more innovative curricula.

That same year, parents of students attending Compton's McKinley Elementary tried to use the law to force a charter takeover but were rebuffed by the school district. Then parents of children attending Desert Trails Elementary, an ailing school in Adelanto, a small town about 80 miles northeast of Los Angeles, tried to do the same thing, assisted by Parent Revolution, a nonprofit group devoted to helping California parents take advantage of the new law.

According to state tests, three out of four students at Desert Trails Elementary could not read. The school is ranked in the bottom 10 percent of California schools and has not met state standards for years.

Parents nevertheless had to fight throughout 2012 with the Adelanto School District in order to pull the trigger. The district rejected two separate petitions signed by about 200 parents each, citing problems with some of the signatures, until a judge forced it to accept them. In October, after the district attempted to stop the charter takeover by creating a parent advisory board instead, a judge ordered the school district to accept the results of a vote by parents in favor of converting their school into a charter. Parents selected the operators of a nearby charter school with state performance scores that are 20 percent higher than Desert Trails'.