Judge to throw out Trigger petitionsCompton parents to open charter nearby
Parents at Compton Unified who filed the state’s first Parent Trigger petition will get the charter school they’ve demanded. It just won’t be at their school, McKinley Elementary, but in a church down the street instead.
In a major setback to their cause, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge tentatively ruled that he would throw out the petitions signed by 265 parents on a technicality: a failure to have each parent fill in the date when they signed the petition. While stating that he was “aware of the pain, frustration and perhaps educational disadvantages this ruling may cause,” Judge Anthony Mohr wrote that state law compelled him to nullify the petitions.
Mohr released his ruling on Friday, the same week that the Los Angeles County Board of Education approved a separate charter school petition filed on the parents’ behalf. Parent Revolution, organizers for the parents, had assumed that they might need a backup for this fall in case litigation over their Parent Trigger plan to assume control of McKinley Elementary extended past the summer. Now, it seems they will need Plan B, starting a charter school in a nearby church building, sooner than they anticipated. The parents intend to formally announce their new plans tomorrow, Parent Revolution Executive Director Ben Austin said Monday.
The McKinley parents became the first to take advantage of a year-old parent empowerment law that allows parents at a low-performing school to demand structural change if at least a majority of parents petition district trustees. Converting a school into a charter school is one of the options. The Compton parents had chosen Celerity Education Group, a Los Angeles-based charter organization, to run the charter operation.
During months of litigation, Judge Mohr had signaled strong support for the parents and frustration with the district’s tactics to thwart their petition. However, in the latest ruling, he said that state law required that parents or guardians date when they signed the Parent Trigger petition, in order for the district to verify that each child was enrolled and that parents had authority to act on their child’s behalf on a specific date.
Noting that prominent Los Angeles attorneys had written the petition pro bono for the parents, Parent Revolution spokeswoman Linda Serrato said in a statement, “it is deeply troubling that an entire organizing campaign can be thrown out because of such a minuscule typo.”
A decision to start a charter outside the district will end a contentious battle, although one or two other parent groups have said they also are organizing under the Parent Trigger law. The State School Board is now drafting new regulations for the process. One proposed provision would require the state to create a model Parent Trigger petition on a website for groups to copy. Mohr has certainly indicated one feature that should be highlighted: a box for the date next to each parent’s signature.
Mohr will issue his final ruling June 7.