Opponents of a law that empowers parents with children in failing schools want to rewrite the rules -- and they are on the hunt for an ally in Sacramento.
Meanwhile, supporters of the Parent Empowerment Act will need a champion of their own in the fight to come.
United Teachers of Los Angeles, the second-largest teachers union in the nation and by far one of the most influential labor groups in California, voted last week to search for a state lawmaker willing to sponsor a bill amending the so-called parent-trigger law. Since its passage in 2010, the law has given parents the power to make wholesale changes at the schools that have failed their children.
The union's vote comes after parents, who had stumbled early on, found their footing in the past year and pulled the trigger successfully to force the first school takeovers under the law. Two schools in Los Angeles and another in the High Desert reopened this year after parents either ousted administrators, forced teachers to reapply for their jobs or re-established the campus as a charter school.
The success of these schools is paramount to the families depending on them to prepare their children for higher education and, later, the workforce. But how well these schools perform is vital to the larger movement to reform education in California, as well.
Many schools statewide, particularly in Los Angeles, are eligible for reform under the law.
UTLA leaders know this, and they're worried. The union represents 35,000 Los Angeles educators, and though statewide teachers unions have taken the lead in the fight against the parent trigger in the past, UTLA is prepared to take up the cause on its own.
It is not the first time the law has been attacked. Immediately after the law's passage, opponents attempted to water down the regulations and put more power in the hands of teachers. That's exactly what former Sen. Gloria Romero did not want when she wrote the Parent Empowerment Act -- note the words "parent empowerment." This law is for parents, not for teachers and administrators whose self-interests may not always align with those of parents and students.
Some changes to the law may be necessary. Even Romero agrees. She notes that pieces of the process should be more transparent, such as who finances the signature-gathering effort that puts the trigger into play. That is a good idea, but any attempt to strip parents of their power to transform failing schools must be shot down.
Supporters of the parent trigger could use someone like Romero in Sacramento right now to ensure that parents don't lose their voice.