School Choice

Judge Allows Parents to Force Charter Takeover of Poorly Performing Elementary School

Struggling Palm Lane Elementary School in Anaheim, California, will see new management.


Improving by dumping the bad seeds (by which we mean management)
OC Register

At the start of the year, parents of two-thirds of the students at Palm Lane Elementary School in in Anaheim, California, signed a petition to force the school to accept a charter program takeover.

This is permitted under California's "parent trigger" law, though it's not always easy to invoke. Sometimes school boards resist, using any excuse they can get their hands on. In Palm Lane's case the Anaheim City School District Board tried throwing out signatures and also claiming that the school didn't qualify for the "parent trigger" law treatment. The law requires schools to meet certain thresholds of classification as a poorly performing school for parents to demand changes via the petition process. But both the state and federal mechanisms for testing school performance are currently suspended. The school district attempted to argue this meant the school could not be subjected to the parent-trigger process at all.

Judge Andrew Banks didn't buy it. He ordered the school district to approve the petition and start collecting charter school proposals. He went back to the school performance scores before the evaluations were suspended and found them wanting. And he did his own review of parents' signatures and found them to meet the required threshold.  

This is not some group of privileged conservative parents trying to use the law to break free from the public school system on the altar of privatization. Palm Lane is heavily attended by minority students (85 percent Hispanic) who are learning English. The public school system has failed them, and now their parents are demanding it be fixed. From the Orange County Register:

"When I received the news, I'm crying for a little time," said Cecilia Ochoa, a parent of two Palm Lane Elementary School students and one of the lead petitioners in what is believed to the first use of the so-called Parent Trigger Law in Orange County. "I'm so very happy, and all my community is happy too."

California's parent-trigger law requires that the new charter school accept all the previous students, assuming they want to remain there, so any argument that charter schools get to "pick" their students in order to game test scores simply doesn't apply here. The transition to a charter school doesn't guarantee success, but being able to actually shop around to decide which program will oversee their kids' education gives parents more control and more choice over their fates, which at least improves the chances of a better outcome. 

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  1. Good for the parents, but I don’t see this becoming a long term threat to bad public schools. This system will stay in place just long enough to get rid of the worst schools with parents that actually care. The quality of public schools will go up and the fever for changing the system will go down. Then the teacher’s union will sweep in and get the law repealed without resistance. Thirty years down the road we will be right back where we started. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good thing to pass the law, but I don’t think it will cause any long term change on a large scale.

      1. That she did, although I think the thirty years prediction is too optimistic.

        1. Woah, someone remembers my gender. Next thing you know I’m going to get regular status. Then I will become unemployable.

          1. Crusty always remembers the Womens.

    1. Agree with everything except the certainty that the laws will be repealed. You underestimate the reluctance of legislators to repeal existing laws. Hopefully charter school laws will stay on the books only to be re-discovered by future generations when the public schools inevitably get bad.

      1. The law came from Moses, Tonio. From Moses. Who are we to repeal the word of God?

  2. I was too busy thinking about those children who will be denied an education by a teacher with all the training and benefits that union membership provides… What about them?!

  3. What gives these parents the right to decide how to educate their children?

  4. This is permitted under California’s “parent trigger” law…

    Teachers unions really dropped the ball on this one.

    1. I’m sure they are hopping mad. That’s a good thing.

    2. Wait, a parent trigger law is triggering in and of itself!

  5. The “problem” with the school is – not enough Asians.
    Asian 3.85%
    African American 2.79%
    Hispanic 85.01%…..ments/2011 English SARC_Palm Lane ES_120203.pdf

    Palm Lane Elementary School
    Percent of Students Scoring at Proficient or Advanced
    English, Math
    Asian 82, 97
    Hispanic 40, 55
    White 60, 73
    Black 62, 57

  6. “This is not some group of privileged conservative parents trying to use the law to break free from the public school system on the altar of privatization.”

    You say that like it’s a bad thing. I would love to see examples of this.

    And what are you talking about – conservative parents so “privileged” that their kids’ schools suck?

    What’s so special about government schools that they should be sheltered from privatization?

    1. something something social contract something shared responsibility something something fair share something white privilege

    2. The idea that Charter Schools are pushed by “privileged conservative parents trying to use the law to break free from the public school system on the altar of privatization” is absolutely false anyways. Charter Schools serve minorities more than their public school counterparts on average (as a % of school population) according to Stanford’s CREDO 2013. This is just rhetoric used to frighten people away from supporting Charter Schools and to vilify anyone who supports changing the status quo.

  7. Well, I won’t know what to think about this until:

    (1) I know what Trump says about it, and
    (2) I see a poll of Millenial’s reactions to it.

  8. What if Trump polled Millenials?!?!?!

    1. He already poles some of them, doesn’t he?

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