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'Parent Trigger' Charter Conversion Fails at Calif. School

A high-profile attempt to use a "parent-trigger" law to convert a traditional public California school to a charter was rejected by the local school board, after divisions over the plans surfaced in the community.

The superintendent of the Adelanto School District, northeast of Los Angeles, recommended that the board reject a parent petition to make the changeover, saying only 235 of 460 signatures submitted could be verified, short of the threshold necessary for the changeover, according to the Los Angeles Times. The board agreed, by a 5-0 vote.

A group of parents in the community had pushed to convert Desert Trails Elementary to a charter school, citing frustrations about its low academic performance. But in recent weeks, another group of parents raised concerns about those efforts, according to the Times, saying some of those signing the petition had been misled, and that there was not widespread support for a charter, as some had claimed. (Ninety-seven of the signatures tossed out were from parents who said they were misled about the conversion, or signed in error, the Times reports.)

What this means for the future structure of Desert Trails, and for parent-trigger proposals in California (the first state to approve a parent trigger law) remains to be seen. As we've reported, proposals to create parent-trigger laws have drawn interest in a number of states.

Parent Revolution, a group that had supported the petition effort at Desert Trails, immediately accused representatives of the California Teachers Association and local teachers union representatives of undermining the effort. In a statement, Parent Revolution said the decision to invalidate signatures was "illegal and unethical," by the standards of California's law and regulations on parent-trigger proposals, and "will not succeed."

More to come.

[UPDATE: A spokesman for the CTA, Frank Wells, said in an e-mail that the union simply listened to parents who were worried about the proposed school reorganization, and "didn't create dissent about the proposal or lead any effort to kill it."

Wells said the union heard from parents who were not asked to sign the petition or who felt they had been misled or had misunderstood what they were signing. A local CTA chapter helped those parents with issues such as arrangin meeting space and Spanish-language translation. "We have no interest in undermining charters," said Wells, noting that the organization has members in charter schools. "[But] we share parental concerns about a lack of transparency in this process."

Linda Serrato, a spokeswoman for Parent Revolution, said that parents who supported the effort to reorganize the school into a charter are planning to revise their petition, based on the flaws cited by the district -- though the parents dispute the district's decision. After making those changes, the parents' plan is to resubmit the petition to the school district--a process allowed by California's parent trigger law, she said.]

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