Blog: Latino Ed Beat

L.A. Parents Use “Parent Trigger” To Create Unusual New School Plan

Empowered by California’s “parent trigger” law, the parents at one elementary school cast their votes Tuesday in an unusual election.

They were deciding whether the struggling 24th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles should remain in the L.A. Unified School District, break away and be run by a charter school operator–or opt for an unusual combination of the two.

While public school districts and charter schools often compete to enroll the same students, the parents took the unusual step, and 80% opted for merging both models together.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the parents voted for L.A. Unified to handle the kindergarten through fourth grades, and the charter school to handle grades five through eight. Parents will also participating in the hiring process for new staff.

The majority of the children at the school are Latino, and the vote gave voice to many of the Spanish-speaking immigrant parents. That was reflected during the vote. However, they did not work alone. The campaign was largely organized by the group Parent Revolution.

The Times reported that the vote, which took place in a park, had a festive atmosphere and included face painting, piñata and tamales.

“I’ve seen the struggle of some parents here that they’ve gone through so many problems with their children,” parent Esmerelda Chacon told the Los Angeles Times. “I’m very , very happy with the results we got.”

The California law allows a majority of parents at a failing school to petition seeking reforms, including replacing the principal and much of the staff to closing the school.

So far, the parent trigger concept has proved to be controversial. In Florida, for example, the debate has raged over whether the law reflects an effort to privatize education by converting public schools into charter schools run by companies.

It remains to be seen whether putting parents in charge of a school can be an effective turnaround model. But it’s an experiment many are setting their hopes on.