California Board Delays ‘Parent Trigger’ Rules Again

Published April 25, 2011

Permanent regulations governing California’s landmark Parent Empowerment Act are still months away. The State Board of Education has instructed the state’s Department of Education to combine suggestions for final “Parent Trigger” rules from several different and opposing groups, with the goal of reaching some kind of agreement by July.

A working group of “stakeholders,” including representatives from the state school boards and school administrators associations, a charter schools group, several state and local school officials, and parents, helped write the draft regulations.

An offshoot of that group, which included the Los Angeles Parent Revolution, the California Association of School Boards, the Association of California School Administrators, and the California Charter Schools Association, developed its own “consensus draft” of the rules.

Several other interest groups, including the California Association for Bilingual Education and Californians Together, offered their own amendments

Teacher Permission Required?
A California Teachers Association representative suggested consensus may be difficult to reach.

“The department’s draft [regulations] is the ‘real consensus draft,'” complained Ken Burt, the state teachers union’s lawyer. “Four individuals were able to come in here and get you to work from it,” he told the board.

Among the unresolved issues the state board attempted to address at its day-long meeting on April 21 was whether approval of half of a school’s teachers should be required to approve a parent petition seeking to convert a failing public school into an independent charter school.

Under California’s law, if at least half of the eligible parents at a failing school sign a petition, the school district must adopt one of a handful of reform strategies: Shut down the school, restart the school as a charter, or adopt either of two other models of reform set forth by federal Race to the Top regulations.

CTA, however, says California’s 1992 charter school law requires teacher approval for a charter conversion and the Parent Trigger does not change that.

Colin Miller, vice president for policy at the California Charter Schools Association, says the union view makes no sense. “Our thinking is the parent empowerment law [lets] parents to do something they couldn’t otherwise do,” he explained. “If the regulations impose both petition processes, we’re actually creating a harder process.”

Conflict of Interest Alleged
During public comment time, several parents complained board member Patricia Rucker had a conflict of interest and should recuse herself from the discussion.

Rucker, who serves as the CTA’s top Sacramento lobbyist, said the new draft regulations “muddy the waters for parents.” Marvin Aceves, a construction business owner and parent from Lynwood, accused Rucker of “really muddying the waters for parents.”

Rucker did not recuse herself, but did not return immediately after lunch. Instead, she reappeared around 4:30, hours after the parents had left, in time to vote to put the combined regulations out for comment.

Ben Boychuk ([email protected]) is managing editor of School Reform News.