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Parent Power Returns In Los Angeles

The new superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District has announced an abrupt reversal of a policy limiting parents’ ability to fix underperforming schools.

Since 2010, California’s public schools have subject to a so-called “parent trigger” law. The law allows the parents of children attending schools that have repeatedly demonstrated low performance to band together and take over the schools’ managment. Parents taking such an action can do things such as fire the principal or convert a school into a charter school.

While the law has only been used a handful of times in the past four years, the prospect of having LAUSD’s authority overthrown by a coalition of parents was off-putting to many of LAUSD’s educational bureaucrats. In August, then-Superintendent John Deasy boldly asserted that LAUSD was actually exempt from the law. Because LAUSD had received a special federal waiver from No Child Left Behind requirements that are also used to determine whether a school can be triggered, Deasy said the district’s schools were also by extension could not trigger a parent takeover.

Just two months after staking his claim, though, Deasy tumbled from power, pressured into resigning after a series of controversies that included the bungled implementation of a billion-dollar program to give an iPad to every LAUSD student.

Now, Deasy’s replacement, Ramon Cortines, has abandoned Deasy’s position on the parent trigger law, though he has refused to describe the move as a policy reversal.

“I think it is a part of giving parents a choice,” Cortines told the Los Angeles Times. “If they want to do something I need to support it.”

The announcement will protect LAUSD from any potential lawsuits spearheaded by the groups Parent Revolution, an LA-based reform organization that spearheaded the trigger law’s creations and has organized trigger campaigns in the city. Parent Revolution deputy director Gabe Rose, who told The Daily Caller News Foundation last August that a lawsuit was possible if the district did not change course, told the Los Angeles Times Tuesday night that the organization is already planning several different parent trigger campaigns in the city. The group, Rose said, had never viewed Deasy’s position as remotely tenable and had done nothing to curb its organizing efforts while the policy was in place.

Cortines’s shift on parental triggers is the latest in a series of rapid changes he has made since replacing Deasy. After scarcely three weeks in office, he has already induced the district’s chief technology officer to resign over the iPad debacle and a similar problem implementing school scheduling software, and has also announced an ambitious plan to reorganize the district to increase the autonomy of regional administrators.

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