California Education Board Clarifies Regulations for State’s ‘Parent Trigger’ Law

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The California State Board of Education has tentatively approved more specific regulations on how the state’s parent trigger law will work.  The new regulations came after parents of children in one of Compton Unified School District’s schools had a very difficult time pulling the trigger.

Passage of the new regulations on June 13 followed months of debate, and subsequent compromises, among organizations representing parents, school districts, teachers and other stakeholders on a variety of different issues related to the law. The new regulations include specific instruction on how petitions seeking to force a school turnaround must be executed and how signatures gathered on the petitions should be verified. A petition by parents of children at McKinley Elementary School in Compton, Calif., was nullified because the signatures did not include the dates their children attended the school and thus signers could not be verified as people who had legal standing in the matter.

The California parent trigger law, passed in 2010, allows parents to demand the school’s principal and half of the staff be replaced, for the school to be turned into a charter school, or for the school to be shut down altogether, if the parents of at least 50 percent of the school’s students sign a petition.

The law caps the number of schools that could change as a result of the trigger at 75 statewide, even though there are a total of 1,300 public schools in California that would qualify. In order to qualify, a school must have missed federally required Average Yearly Progress Goals, mandated by No Child Left Behind, for four consecutive years.

Included in the regulations is a requirement for the state to create a website with information about the petition process, including a sample petition for turnaround organizers to follow. Another new regulation requires full public disclosure of organizations that are providing financial or other support to petitioners. The regulations also ban paying signature gathers based on the number of signatures they college.  They also require disclosure of any payment of people collecting signatures.

School districts, such as Compton Unified, are now required to verify signatures through documents already possessed by the school district, such as emergency contact information cards.

Gabe Rose of Parent Revolution, a Los Angele-based organization that helped lobby for the law, said that the new regulations will allow parents to move forward with increased confidence and organize petition campaigns all across California.

Although the new regulations cover many disputed part of the law, left unsettled were any requirements for public meetings on proposed turnaround efforts and exactly which parents can trigger changes. The California School Boards Association and other organizations think that a majority of petitioners should be from the specific targeted school only, and not from other campuses that feed into it.

The State Board is scheduled to take a final vote on the regulations in September.