Yesterday, the Los Angeles school board finally decided to set some ground rules for California’s controversial Parent Trigger law. If the law really is about parent empowerment, this should be a welcome adjustment and transparency will reveal a fair process. But Parent Revolution is crying foul.
Gone are the days when slick, professional organizers can disguise school upheaval as parent empowerment by marketing laptops to every student, bullying parents into signing petitions, threatening families with loss of immigration status, or silencing teachers and principals trying to answer parents’ questions. These are just some of the tactics parents and teachers have reported experiencing at the hands of Parent Revolution.
Even at the school board meeting, I experienced the force of Parent Revolution. Many of us showed up before 8:00 a.m. for the 12:00 meeting to ensure an opportunity to speak in the first come, first served cue. Hours after standing in the hot sun, we saw the Parent Revolution folks march up and literally cut to the front of the line. I guess they are used to the system being rigged in their favor. We parents first tried to reason with them, but they wouldn’t have it. So a group of parents and teachers joined together and moved ahead of them, reclaiming our rightful place in line. The Parent Revolution folks took pictures of us and phoned board members. Someone called the police. But teachers and parents, together, remained at the front of the line. What a metaphor for the need for intervention—and for the path forward.
The rest of the afternoon was interesting too. I heard one Parent Revolution staffer coach parents on their testimony, which never materialized as these “parent activists” left when the meeting dragged on into the evening.
The board saw through it. Board member Marguerite Poindexter Lamotte told tales of astro-Revolutionaries setting up house in her schools’neighborhoods. She offered to co-sponsor Steve Zimmer’s resolution. Richard Vladovic reported incidents of petitioners confronting students. With another vote of support from Bennett Kayser, the measure passed, despite a brilliant attempt at political maneuvering by Superintendent Deasy.
Now, just as a real estate developer posts public notices about a project that will impact the community, or even a home owner shares information about changes to his or her own property that could affect the neighborhood, groups that seek to take over a community’s school will have to participate in an open, reliable process to transparently discuss transformation.
Some will say this measure doesn’t go far enough; the law should be repealed. But that’s unlikely to happen any time soon. For now, the LAUSD school board did the right thing in demanding the equivalent of background checks on the Parent Trigger. If the system is rigged so one organization is the only voice in petitions for change, we're not empowering parents at all. We're just transferring that power from the district or the teacher’s union to a different organization. There has to be a mechanism for parents to engage fairly--and we want to encourage collaboration between parents and teachers. Without informed parents and communities, the Parent Trigger is nothing but an explosion—something we can all agree has no place on a school campus.