State NAACP backs ‘parent trigger’Parents can demand charter conversion
Taking a different tack on school reform from the national headquarters, the California chapter of the NAACP adopted a resolution endorsing the “parent trigger” at its state convention last weekend.
Parent trigger was one of the reforms that the Legislature passed earlier this year to bolster its Race to the Top application. Under a parent trigger, a majority of parents in an underperforming school can demand that their school be turned over to a charter operator or be transformed in one of three other ways permitted under President Obama’s plan for turning around failing schools.
No parent petitions have yet been submitted, but Parent Revolution, a Los Angeles based group, is pushing the idea and reportedly organizing parents in Southern California. The state NAACP’s endorsement of the concept could help break down some of the resistance to it.
“The California State NAACP will stand with and support parents in their efforts to use the parent trigger to transform their schools through community organizing,” the resolution said.
In July, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund was one of seven national civil rights groups that criticized much of Obama’s agenda for school reform, including competitive grant processes like Race to the Top, and expressed “reservations about the extensive reliance on charter schools” in turnaround strategies. It’s likely that most of the petitions under a parent trigger will call for a charter school conversion, although parents could also demand a milder transformation involving a longer school day or other, more traditional reforms.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a big charter school proponent, voiced strong support for the parent trigger at the convention. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has pushed for opening up more Los Angeles Unified low-performng schools to outside operators, praised its passage in a statement. “I was thrilled to hear that the NAACP has endorsed the parent trigger,” he said. “I look forward to continuing to work with the NAACP and other reform-minded groups to ensure that all our students – and particularly those of color – have equal access to a world-class education.”
Any school in the third-year status of School Improvement for failing to make proficiency targets under No Child Left Behind – and not already undergoing a federally required turnaround process – is potentially open to a parent trigger initiative, although the Legislature has limited the initial number to 75 schools. Schools subject to a petition signed by 51 percent of parents this year must undergo one of the turnaround strategies next fall. But opponents of the parent trigger, including unionized teachers, may challenge implementing rules in court.