The first "parent trigger" petition in California, which sought to allow a charter organization to take over a Compton elementary school, ultimately failed amid bitter charges on both sides that parents had been harassed and lied to. The state Board of Education had a chance to make the process less chaotic by requiring open meetings at which both reformers and opponents would lay out their arguments, enabling parents to make an informed decision. But the board adopted regulations that fell short, so no one should be surprised that the state's second trigger petition, this time in Adelanto, resulted in similar confusion and rancor.
The trigger law allows parents to force major change at their low-performing school if half or more sign a petition. They might call for a switch to charter, closure or the replacement of staff.
Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto certainly fit the description of low-performing. Its Academic Performance Index score is well below the state goal, and its improvement has been plodding at best. Still, parents running the petition campaign didn't seek one of the usual trigger reforms. Their petition called instead for keeping Desert Trails as a traditional public school but turning over control of hiring, firing and instruction to an independent board of parents and outside education experts. In order to pressure the district to negotiate, they persuaded parents to sign a backup petition that would turn the school into an independently run charter.