What the ‘Parent Trigger’ Law Meant in Practice

Investigative reporter Yasha Levine went to the depressed desert town of Adelanto, CA to see what the ‘Parent Trigger’ law meant in practice. He found that parents were physically intimidated, bribed, lied to, and coerced into signing the petition. In some cases, parents who had originally come from Mexico without proper documentation were told that if they wanted to remain in the US, they needed to sign. Many parents later officially rescinded their signatures, only to be told by a court that they could not do so. It’s a very sad story, well-written indeed. Here are a few excerpts:

Pulling the Trigger

By Yasha Levine

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Parent Revolution is a direct outgrowth of the charter school industry. Ben Austin, the outfit’s leader, previously headed a large charter-school firm called Green Dot Schools, whose backers overlap nicely with Parent Revolution’s backers — Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, Eli Broad, Phillip Anschutz, and others. Austin’s replacement at Green Dot Schools is a former partner at Bain, Mitt Romney’s old firm.

Parent Revolution’s Ben Austin has described the law as “a groundbreaking and historic new policy” that will “transform public education,” and has dressed it up in the language of parents’ rights. ALEC, which adopted a version of the Parent Empowerment Act as a model for “parent trigger” legislation, described it in similar terms, saying that it “places democratic control into the hands of parents at school level.”

And yet, for all this empowerment, parents have never tried to pull the trigger on their own, not without Parent Revolution coming into town and applying pressure, intimidation and bait-and-switch techniques on unsuspecting parents.

On October 18, Desert Trails parents met in a park adjacent to the school to vote and pick the specific charter company that would take control of the school. California’s Parent Empowerment Act allows only the parents who signed a trigger petition to cast a ballot in this vote, which meant that hundreds of parents should have shown up to make the decision, and to exercise their newfound empowerment. But in the end, only 53 ballots were cast — with 50 of them voting to give the contract to LaVerne Elementary Preparatory Academy, a small charter operator that runs one other school in a nearby town.

A decision made by 53 people in a town of 32,000? That’s less than 0.2% of the population. Parent empowerment indeed.

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